Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 15

Interfax-Urals reported on April 6 that Mikhail Trepashkin, the defense attorney and former FSB colonel who is serving a four-year prison term in a low-security prison in Nizhny Tagil in Sverdlovsk region on charges of disclosing state secrets, ended a dry hunger strike on April 6 at the request of the Sverdolvsk regional human rights commissioner. Trepashkin declared the hunger strike on April 3, demanding that the regional rights commissioner, Tatyana Merzlyakova, visit his prison to look into the treatment of inmates and that she be accompanied by rights activists and journalists. An aide to Merzlyakova, Viktor Vakhrushev, told Interfax that she visited Trepashkin on April 5 but that no decisions were made then. According to Interfax, Merzlyakova had met with Trepashkin earlier and said after seeing him that he was provoking the prison authorities to discipline him.

In late March, two leading international human rights groups declared Trepashkin a political prisoner. As MosNews reported on March 25, Amnesty International said in a statement released the previous day that there were serious grounds to believe Trepashkin was arrested and convicted under falsified criminal charges that may be politically-motivated, in order to prevent him from continuing his investigative and legal work related to the 1999 apartment bombings in Moscow and other cities. The London-based group called for a prompt, impartial and thorough investigation and a full review of Trepashkin’s case, conducted in accordance with international standards, and for his release pending a re-examination of his case. In a statement also issued on March 24, Human Rights First also called on the Russian authorities to release Trepashkin, saying that he had been wrongfully imprisoned and was in poor health.

On April 10, the Nizhny Tagil District Court postponed until May 3 a hearing to consider an appeal by the administration of the prison where Trepashkin is being held to have him moved to a higher-security prison, Interfax reported.