The “Freedom to Zarenkov!” Public Committee, set up by the international community to protest against the arrest of the Estonia Without Nazism group leader Andrei Zarenkov, made its first statement on Monday, January 20th.
The Committee of NGO leaders and activists, as well as reporters from different countries points out in the statement that they see the arrest on January 4th and the subsequent six-month incarceration of Andrei Zarenkov, who is also known as the informal leader of Russian-speakers in Estonia, on allegations that he had taken bribes to the tune of 1,000 Euros, as an overt provocation by Estonian security services.
Zarenkov was notably arrested shortly after his group held an international human rights conference in Tallinn, after they accused the Estonian security police of bringing pressure to bear on the country’s civil society and exposed the Estonian government’s policy of discrimination against ethnic minorities and the glorification of Nazism.
Andrei Zarenkov thought of running for the European Parliament during the next election, which raised the ire of some Estonian officials, including the Defence Minister of the Baltic country.
When already in custody, Zarenkov rejected all the charges. The Committee says in this context that it believes that the arrest was politically motivated, for there is an obvious discrepancy between minor infractions that Zarenkov was charged with and the punishment of six month behind bars. The Committee statement also points out that it’s outrageous that the trial judge accepted the prosecutor’s downright racist reasoning that Zarenkov should be sent to jail, since he is an ethnic Russian and could escape to Russia. It stands to reason to suggest therefore that if he were an ethnic Estonian, he would be left at large, which is actually corroborated by Estonia’s everyday judicial practice in similar and graver offences.
In this context, the statement points out, we announce the setting up of the Freedom to Zarenkov! International Public Committee to press for his immediate release and to put an end to police arbitrariness in the Republic of Estonia.
The Committee asked the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to adopt a resolution condemning the Estonian authorities’ punitive measures against the leader of Estonian antifascists.
The Committee also asked the governments and MPs of all democratic nations, as well as international organizations and NGOs in different countries to throw their weight behind the Committee’s initiative.