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Russia: LGBTI human rights defender Mr Nikolai Alexeyev arrested and prevented from travelling abroad
LGBTI human rights defender Mr Nikolai Alexeyev was reportedly arrested at Domodedovo airport in Moscow on 15 September 2010. He was released in the city of Tula on the morning of 18 September.
Nikolai Alexeyev is a human rights defender working on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex issues, particularly the right to freedom of association by LGBTI people. Nikolai Alexeyev was organiser of both the Moscow and Minsk Gay Pride Parades. He was previously arrested following a gay pride parade in Moscow in May 2009.
On 15 September 2010 at approximately 7.00pm, Nikolai Alexeyev was proceeding through Domodedovo Airport in Moscow before boarding a flight to Geneva to attend a UN meeting on LGBTI rights, when he was stopped by airport officials after passing through passport control. A spokesperson for Domodedovo Airport later stated that Nikolai Alexeyev was prohibited from boarding the plane after refusing to take off his shoes at the security check. As his passport had already been stamped with an exit stamp, Nikolai Alexeyev had entered the airport's international zone and thus should not have been within the jurisdiction of the Russian police. However, after his arrest his passport was not marked with a re-entry stamp, which may mean that his papers are not in order.
Nikolai Alexeyev was reportedly taken to a separate room by security officials. They were accompanied by an airline worker from Swiss Air who reported that Nikolai Alexeyev's luggage had already been offloaded from the plane, and who later told him that information about the incident would be transmitted to the Swiss authorities, who may decide to revoke his Schengen visa. His luggage, laptop and documents were examined for more than two hours, before Nikolai Alexeyev was transferred into the custody of several men dressed in plainclothes. The unidentified men took him from the airport through a private entrance and drove him to a police facility some two hours' drive away, where he was again searched. During some moments alone, he used a personal electronic device with a GPS function to determine that the police facility was located in the city of Kashira.
Nikolai Alexeyev was held incommunicado in detention for two days, denied access to a lawyer and has reported that he was deprived of sleep. He believes that drinking water he was given may have been drugged. His family and colleagues were not informed about his arrest or whereabouts. Nikolai Alexeyev has reported that whilst in detention he was mocked and insulted, including being called a “faggot”, “pederast” and other insults. In addition, he was pressured to sign a document stating that an agreement had been reached to withdraw a case he has presented against the Russian Federation at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), challenging the ban of gay rights demonstrations in Moscow by the city Mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, over the course of five years. Nikolai Alexeyev has stated that he did not sign this document, “despite persistent 'advice' not to enter into conflict with the authorities”. The ECHR is expected to hear the court case later this year.
On the second night of his detention, Nikolai Alexeyev was transferred to another police facility in the city of Tula, to the south of Moscow. It was around this time that a text message purporting to be from Nikolai Alexeyev was sent from his phone to colleagues in the media, stating that he was in Belarus, that he had applied for political asylum there and that he was dropping his court cases at the ECHR. This text message, the only contact between Nikolai Alexeyev and his colleagues or family whilst he was in detention, was reported in the media and led to confusion about his whereabouts and conditions of detention. Nikolai Alexeyev has denied sending this text message, and it is believed that it was sent whilst his belongings were confiscated. Calls to his mobile phone went unanswered whilst he was in detention. In the event, Nikolai Alexeyev was released in Tula on the morning of 18 September and made his way back to Moscow by bus.
On 15 September, the day of Nikolai Alexeyev's arrest, the St. Petersburg Queer Culture Festival was cancelled. It has been reported that the festival is in danger of prohibition following a recommendation by the city authorities describing the festival as “propaganda of homosexuality”.
Front Line is concerned regarding the arrest, detention and effective travel ban imposed on Nikolai Alexeyev, as well as the alleged verbal abuse against him in detention, and believes that these measures have been taken against him solely as a result of his human rights activities, particularly those on behalf of the LGBTI community. Front Line is concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Nikolai Alexeyev and all LGBTI human rights defenders in Russia.