Vitishko's physical condition deteriorates

Russian environmental defender Evgeny Vitishko has ended a hunger strike after 20 days because his physical condition has severely deteriorated.

He informed Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus (EWNC), where Vitishko is a member of the Board, that his blood pressure dropped, his kidneys were in pain and he felt dizziness. During his hunger strike, Vitishko was not exempted from physical labor in the penal colony  where he is serving time, and he was denied his right to vacation, which is guaranteed by law.

Evgeny Vitishko has been serving a three-year sentence in a Tambov settlement colony for allegedly writing graffiti on a fence around private property belonging to Alexander Tkachev, former Governor of Krasnodar Krai, who is currently the Minister of Agriculture.

Evgeny Vitishko started his hunger strike in protest against actions by prosecutors who decided to challenge a court decision that, on November 10, 2015, reduced Vitishko’s sentence and ruled to release Vitishko to serve the remainder of the sentence through restriction of freedom. On December 3, 2015, prosecutors also petitioned the court to re-schedule the hearings to grant Vitishko parole because an alleged owner of the fence did not show up.

EWNC believes that the prosecutors’ actions are aimed at postponing Vitishko’s release. As of today, there are no scheduled hearings regarding the appeal on his reduced sentence or parole. EWNC also states that there is a possibility that Alexander Tkachev is playing an informal role in the prosecutors’ tactics.

Vitishko is still in the colony despite the fact that on October 1, 2015, at a meeting of the Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights, President Vladimir Putin ordered the Office of the Prosecutor General to examine the situation around Vitishko. Prosecutors, after the presidential order, supported Vitishko’s release. However, they then challenged the decision on Vitishko’s release and are now dragging out the court’s hearing on parole. Officially, they want the court to rule that, after release, Vitishko cannot leave the small town of Slavyansk-na-Kuban where he is officially registered but has not lived for 15 years.

We are deeply concerned about the continuing injustice against Vitishko.  He has been held in the colony for more than 18 months based on trumped up charges. We ask for his immediate release and that all charges against him be dropped as we believe he was persecuted solely for his human rights work and his right to exercise freedom of expression.

Based on information by Environmental Watch on North Caucasus

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