Press release April 17, 2023
Russia: Freedom House Condemns Kara-Murza Sentencing, Calls on Democracies to Act
The unfounded, politically motivated prison sentence is a travesty of justice and yet another sign of the Kremlin’s return to Stalinist-style repression.
In response to the sentencing of Russian opposition politician and Washington Post contributor Vladimir Kara-Murza to 25 years in prison for criticizing the regime’s invasion of Ukraine, Freedom House president Michael J. Abramowitz issued the following statement:
“With its unjust and unfounded sentencing of Vladimir Kara-Murza to 25 years in prison, the Russian government adds a deplorable act of cruelty to its already staggering ledger of human rights abuses. Kara-Murza has dedicated his life to combating corruption and repression in Russia, and now he has been imprisoned for the supposed ‘treason’ of speaking out against President Putin’s brutal and unprovoked war of conquest.
“We commend the US State Department for imposing sanctions on the Russian officials who were involved in the case—including the judge, Sergey Podoprigorov—and for publicly declaring it a ‘gross violation of human rights.’ We call for additional, coordinated sanctions and asset freezes against Russian officials and institutions, particularly by democratic countries whose currency Russia has historically kept in reserve, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan. Forceful policy action that punishes and deters Russian perpetrators of human rights abuses is imperative at this moment, not only to save Kara-Murza’s life, but also to show other dictatorships that their barbaric methods of political imprisonment and torture have no place in the modern world. This case is just the tip of the iceberg: the Russian government alone is currently detaining and prosecuting hundreds of people for their political beliefs and expression.
“That the Kremlin’s puppet court has imposed such a heavy sentence on Kara-Murza is hardly surprising, given his career in the political opposition and his outspoken criticism of Putin, but that does not make this outcome any less tragic. Kara-Murza’s health has declined drastically since he was taken into custody almost exactly one year ago—exacerbating problems including nerve damage in his feet and left hand, caused by the Kremlin’s two previous attempts on his life through poisoning—and his family members have expressed concern that continued detention and neglect in Russian prisons will harm him even further. He must be released and allowed to return to his family in the United States, where he is a permanent resident.
“Our thoughts are with Evgenia Kara-Murza, Vladimir’s wife and tireless advocate, and their two children. Freedom House will stand with them until Vladimir is free and Putin’s reign of terror has been brought to an end.”
Freedom House is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to create a world where all are free. We inform the world about threats to freedom, mobilize global action, and support democracy’s defenders.
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