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Moscow Times
October 31, 2001
Activist Warns of Repression
By Oksana Yablokova

Staff Writer

Although Russia is no longer a country where political repression is a part of everyday life, people are still being persecuted for political reasons, a prominent human rights activist said Tuesday, as hundreds commemorated the victims of the gulag.

Valentin Gefter, head of the Human Rights Institute, warned that a wave of espionage cases against environmentalists, scientists and diplomats, as well as probes into small-time political players and religious organizations, is a sign of a possible return to Soviet practices.

"Nowadays, we cannot say that politically motivated persecution exists in Russia at large. But society has been very passive [about the ongoing trials], and a repeat of the past could become reality," Gefter said.

Two trials against Russian scientists accused of spying resumed this week. Arms-control researcher Igor Sutyagin, who has been in jail since October 1999, is on trial in Kaluga on charges of spying for a London-based company allegedly linked to the U.S. Secret Service. The trial of Valentin Danilov, a Siberian physicist accused of spying for China, resumed in Krasnoyarsk on Tuesday.

Writer Eduard Limonov, who heads the National Bolshevik Party, has been held in Moscow's Lefortovo prison on charges of illegal arms purchase and terrorism since being arrested in April. Last month, prosecutors refused to release him on bail, Limonov's lawyer said.

Recalling Putin's career as a KGB officer and then head of the FSB, Gefter said that a recent decision by the president to join a U.S.-led crackdown on terrorism would provide fertile ground for a wave of new repression.

Several hundred Muscovites gathered on Lubyanskaya Ploshchad on Tuesday to commemorate gulag victims. Children and other relatives of the victims have gathered at the square on Oct. 30 for much of the past decade to remember their loved ones.

The mourners on Tuesday carried photographs of their relatives and lit candles in their memory. They laid the candles along with flowers on the square's Solovetsky stone, a symbolic grave for the thousands who vanished in Soviet times.

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