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Jailed Human Rights Veteran Denounces ‘Mass Repression’ In Court

Human rights defender
Russian veteran human rights campaigner Oleg Orlov gestures behind a glass wall of an enclosure for defendants as he attends a court hearing in Moscow, Russia February 27, 2024. Orlov was sentenced to two and a half years in prison after he was found guilty of discrediting Russia's armed forces. REUTERS

Oleg Orlov, a veteran Russian human rights campaigner has told a court that he stands by his denunciation of “mass repression” in Russia.

Oleg is serving a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence for speaking out against the war in Ukraine

In February, the Golovinsky district court in Moscow had sentenced 71 -year- old Oleg Orlov, the co-chair of the Nobel Peace Prize winning Memorial human rights center, to two and a half years in prison. He was found guilty of discrediting the Russian Army after he protested against the war.

Orlov also wrote an article accusing President Vladimir Putin of leading the country into fascism.

“I have no remorse or regrets. I am in the right place at the right time,” he told the packed courtroom in Moscow, speaking by video link from a detention centre about 750 km (470 miles) away.

“When there is mass repression in the country, I am there alongside those who are persecuted, and in this way I help…” Orlov continued, before the sound was cut from his video.

Orlov’s supporters have voiced concern about his health. His defence team has filed complaints saying that the conditions of his detention and transportation amount to cruel and degrading treatment.

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Orlov was labelled a foreign agent. He refused to take part in closing arguments on February 27 and asked his defense team not to invite their witnesses to the stand. He said they may be labeled “foreign agents” if they testify.

In his final statement shortly before the pronouncement of the verdict and the sentence, Orlov reiterated his innocence and stressed that Russian authorities have banned “any independent opinion.”

“(Russian officials’) children or grandchildren will be ashamed to talk about where their fathers, mothers, grandfathers, and grandmothers served and what they did. And the same will happen to those who, by carrying out orders, are committing crimes in Ukraine. In my view, this is the worst punishment, and it is inevitable,” Orlov said.

Orlov came to be known as one of Russia’s leading human rights activists after he co-founded the Memorial human rights center following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

in 2009, Orlov was awarded the Sakharov Prize, an international honorary award for individuals or groups who have dedicated their lives to the defense of human rights and freedom of thought.

(With Inputs From Reuters)