On October 28, 2015, Natalya Sharina, the director of the Moscow Library of Ukrainian Literature (MLUL), was taken into custody by Russian law enforcement officials, reportedly based on the allegation that some of the library’s materials incite hatred toward the Russian people. On October 30, 2015, Moscow’s Tagansky court ruled to keep Ms. Sharina under house arrest pending trial.
On the day of Ms. Sharina’s arrest, state officials searched her apartment and raided the MLUL, where they seized books and documents. Ms. Sharina is accused, among other things, of disseminating extremist banned literature, including especially the works of Ukrainian nationalist writer Dmytro Korchynsky. On November 2, 2016, Ms. Sharina attended her first court hearing at which she was charged with “abusing her position in order to incite hatred” and “embezzlement;” the latter is apparently in reference to allegations that she used library funds to pay legal fees in a previous court case.
As of this report, Ms. Sharina remains under house arrest until April 28, 2017, while her trial is ongoing. If convicted, she faces up to ten years in prison. Her family has reported concerns regarding her health, after she suffered a hypertonic collapse the night of her arrest and has allegedly not been allowed access to needed medical treatment. In February 2017, Ms. Sharina submitted an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary arrest and detention of a librarian in apparent retaliation for the peaceful exercise of the right to academic freedom, freedom of expression, and freedom of association – conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Russia is a party. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim and their family, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally. State authorities have a responsibility to refrain from wrongful arrests and detention of members of academic communities and to comply with internationally recognized standards of due process and fair trial.