“You thought you could control us, nobody can control the police. You’ve got what you deserved as a human rights defender.”
Threat from the police shortly after Aleksei Sokolov’s arrest -
Aleksei Sokolov is a founder and the head of the organization Pravovaia Osnova (Legal Base) which campaigns against torture and other ill-treatment of detainees in the Russian Federation. The work of Legal Base brought about several investigations against law enforcement officers on allegations including the use of torture to coerce suspects to “confess”.
Aleksei Sokolov became prominent after he publicized and distributed in 2006 a film about torture in a temporary holding centre in prison colony IK-2 in Yekaterinburg. The film received wide coverage, both in Russia and internationally, and led to the closure of the temporary holding centre.
In 2008, Aleksei Sokolov was appointed a member of the Public Commission for the control of places of detention and conducted a series of visits to detention facilities in this capacity. However, he learned that several prisoners were being pressured into claiming falsely that he had been involved in crimes, including a robbery in 2004.
On 13 May 2009, Aleksei Sokolov was detained for theft and he has been held since then in Yekaterinburg. He was sentenced on 13 May 2010 to serve five years in a high security prison colony, a verdict based solely on the statements of the co-accused in this case who are already serving prison sentences for other crimes. In addition, these statements often contradicted each other as well as earlier “confessions” of the co-accused.
The activist had pleaded not guilty to all charges and he intends to appeal against the verdict, but there are concerns that he might not receive a fair trial on appeal and that he might be subjected to torture and other ill-treatment while imprisoned.
Aleksei Sokolov is clearly a prisoner of conscience targeted solely to put him under pressure to withdraw from his human rights work. Aleksei Sokolov has a wife and a small child.