Vladimir Kara-Murza’s Conviction and Unprecedented Sentence are Unjust

WASHINGTON D.C. – Russian opposition leader, democracy advocate, journalist, historian, and twice-poisoned critic of the Putin regime, and Senior Advisor for Human Rights First Vladimir Kara-Murza was convicted today in Moscow City Court of high treason and other charges and sentenced to a high-security penal colony for denouncing Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and criticizing the Putin regime.

“Our colleague Vladimir Kara-Murza’s arrest, his secretive trial, and today’s sentence of 25 years in a Russian penal colony are reminiscent of Stalin’s campaign of terror against dissenting voices,” said Michael Breen, President and CEO of Human Rights First. “Prosecuting political actors for their dissent is a gross violation of their human rights. We continue to advocate for Vladimir’s release from this unjust incarceration and the release of the more than 500 political prisoners in Russia today.”

In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Kara-Murza was arrested on April 11, 2022, just days after his return to Russia. The Russian government repeatedly extended his pretrial detention, bringing unfounded charges against him, including spreading “deliberately false information” about the Russian Armed Forces, involvement with an “undesirable” foreign organization, and “high treason.” His health declined in confinement, and he suffered from polyneuropathy caused by two near-fatal poisoning attacks in Russia in 2015 and 2017.

Kara-Murza has been globally recognized for his courage in standing up for freedom, democracy, and human rights in Russia and was awarded the 2022 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize. The Canadian and U.S. governments have condemned his ongoing arbitrary detention and imposed Magnitsky-style sanctions on several Russians involved in his case, an important measure supporting Kara-Murza, who pushed for adopting Magnitsky sanctions globally.

His sham trial is partly a retaliation for his years of effective advocacy for Magnitsky sanctions. Kara-Murza’s judge, the head of the prison where he is detained, and the leader of the Investigative Committee overseeing his case were all subjected to Magnitsky sanctions for their role in the 2009 arbitrary detention and killing of Sergei Magnitsky.

Kara-Murza’s conviction is the latest blow in a Russian campaign to silence dissent there. An estimated 20,000 people have been detained in Russia for criticizing its war in Ukraine since February 2022, and more than 550 political prisoners are believed to be held by Russia.

On Wednesday, April 19, at 3:00 pm ET Human Rights First’s Director of Accountability Adam Keith, Senators Lindsey Graham and Ben Cardin, Representatives Steve King and Bill Keating, allied organizations the McCain Institute, the Free Russia Campaign, the Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign, the George W. Bush Institute, and the National Endowment for Democracy will join David Hoffman of The Washington Post’s editorial board and Kara-Murza’s spouse and advocate Evgenia Kara-Murza to mark the first anniversary of Kara-Murza’s unlawful detention, continue our calls for Kara-Murza’s release, and discuss the prospects of a free and democratic Russia.


Published on April 17, 2023


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