ECHR sided with the Mari

On January 14, the European Court of Human Rights made the decision in the case of journalist and civil activist from Mari El Georgy Pirogov, he was awarded compensation in the amount of 10,500 euros.

This was reported by the journalist of “Idel.Реалии” Dmitry Lyubimov with reference to the office of the human rights organization “Human and Law.” Pirogov 14 years ago made the speech at the meeting of the «Mari Ushem» public movement. He criticized the policies of Leonid Markelov (the former head of the republic, was arrested on charges of committing a corruption crime in April 2017, he accused him of waging a political fight by criminal methods). The ECHR has found a violation of Article 10 of the European Convention which protects freedom of expression.

After the meeting, the governor claimed to recognize that the activist’s speech is defamation (part 3 of article 129 of the Criminal Code). Georgy Pirogov explained in the courts followed the Markelov’s claim that the statements at the meeting were a value judgment regarding the activities of the entire executive branch of the regional government. On March 28, 2007, the Yoshkar-Ola magistrates’ court found that in Pirogov’s speech there was slander against the head of Mari El Leonid Markelov. The journalist and civil activist was sentenced to six months in prison (on probation) for spread of knowingly false information, discrediting honor and dignity of the official.

The civil trial followed the criminal trial confirmed the guilt of Georgy Pirogov. And he obliged to pay 30 thousand rubles to Markelov and publish a refutation. The journalist fulfilled the requirements. After that, he tried to appeal them to higher courts. But this did not lead to anything.

In 2008, after exhaustion of all remedies at the national level, Pirogov, together with “Human and Law”, sent his complaint to the ECHR. In April 2017, the European Court accepted it for consideration. The court sent questions to the Russian authorities about whether a fair trial was ensured and whether Pirogov violated the acceptable limit of public criticism of a representative of authority.

The ECHR decision in the Pirogov case, published on January 14, contains the final conclusion that acceptable criticism of a public person in the activist’s speech was not exceeded, the discussion at the meeting was of public interest and contributed to the development of political discussion.

According to Sergei Poduzov, co-chairman of the human rights organization «Human and Law», represented Pirogov, the decision of the ECHR is important for the Mari El Republic:

— Journalist Georgy Pirogov proved in the European Court of Human Rights that one can critically speak about what is happening in the region, raise a discussion within the framework of public interest and most importantly, the head of Mari El is responsible for almost all the processes taking place in the region (the work of law enforcement agencies, the work of the prosecutor’s office, the presence of opposition views, guarantees of observance of human rights, etc.), he notes. – We stated this during the investigation, and during the consideration of cases in the courts of the republic. Unfortunately, no one wanted to hear that. We had to wait for the decision of the ECHR for 11 years, and in the end we achieved justice.

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