‘They believe I committed a crime’ Detention of prominent human rights lawyer Ivan Pavlov accompanied by raids on his home and office in St. Petersburg

Valery Sharifulin / TASS / Vida Press

On Friday, April 30, federal agents in Moscow arrested prominent human rights lawyer Ivan Pavlov on charges of disclosing case details from a preliminary investigation. Meanwhile, in St. Petersburg, police officers and state investigators carried out raids at Pavlov’s apartment (where his wife was home) and at his legal office. Speaking to reporters, Pavlov said state investigators suspect him of sharing information from the treason case against prominent journalist Ivan Safronov. If convicted, Pavlov faces up to three months in jail and could be disbarred.

Lawyer Ivan Pavlov, the head of the human rights group Team 29, was arrested in Moscow on the morning of Friday, April 30. At 6:00 a.m., law enforcement officers arrived at the Mercure Hotel to carry out a search of Pavlov’s hotel room, Team 29 lawyer Evgeny Smirnov told Meduza. They detained Pavlov following the raid, but as of 9:00 a.m. he was still at the hotel. Pavlov was taken for interrogation closer to 1:00 o’clock. Throughout the morning, there were two men in plain clothes standing in the hallway outside the door to Pavlov’s hotel room. When Meduza’s special correspondent Svetlana Reiter tried to take a photo in the hotel hallway, the plainclothes officers put her in a chokehold and tried to take away her phone, after which they demanded that she leave the hotel. 

Ivan Pavlov stands accused of disclosing information from a preliminary investigation, Smirnov said, without specifying any other details. The case against him was opened under Russian Criminal Code article 310, meaning Pavlov could face up to three months arrest. As emphasized by lawyer Sergey Badamshin, from the human rights group Pravozashchita Otkrytki, this also puts Pavlov under threat of being disbarred. “They didn’t handle the disbarment through the Chamber of Lawyers — they went through a criminal case. It will be an interesting case. With consequences for the entire legal profession,” Badamshin said. 

State investigators are also seeking preventive measures against Pavlov ahead of his trial. On Friday afternoon, they filed a petition with Moscow’s Basmanny Court seeking to ban Pavlov from using the Internet and communicating with anyone other than his close relatives and the investigators themselves.

Update. Later in the day on Friday, Moscow’s Basmanny Court banned Ivan Pavlov from communicating with the witness in his case, and from using the Internet and his cellphone, Mediazona reported.

Ivan Pavlov was detained in connection with the treason case against former journalist Ivan Safronov, Team 29 reported. “The investigative team believes that I committed a crime when I told you, journalists, about the fact that your colleague was being held in the Lefortovo [Prison] on an absurd charge. It’s illegal,” Pavlov told reporters on Friday. The lawyer explained that the case against him was opened because he gave journalists from the newspaper Vedomosti a copy of the resolution bringing charges against Safronov, and because he told the media about the secret witness in the case.

Ivan Pavlov talking to the press on Friday, April 30.

Pavlov, who is representing Ivan Safronov in the treason case, has refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement with the FSB. He has spoken to the press about the details of the Safronov case on many occasions. For example, he told the media that the FSB offered Safronov a plea deal in exchange for revealing his journalistic sources (Safronov turned it down). Pavlov also said that according to the FSB, Safronov allegedly passed classified information to the Czech Republic that was encrypted using books by Russian author Roy Medvedev. Pavlov also disclosed that Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) had Safronov under surveillance. 

In August 2020, Kommersant reported that the FSB had filed a complaint with the Russian Justice Ministry over Pavlov’s refusal to sign a non-disclosure agreement. According to Pavlov, FSB agent Alexander Chaban — the investigator in the Safronov case — wrote in his appeal that Pavlov’s refusal to sign a non-disclosure agreement was preventing him from laying charges against the lawyer under Criminal Code article 310. Lawyer Evgeny Smirnov said that Pavlov often received threats from the FSB, and in particular from Alexander Chaban. 

Also on Friday, law enforcement officers in St. Petersburg raided the Team 29 office, and the home of Ivan Pavlov’s wife. The raids began in the morning when security officers broke down the door to the apartment of Igor Dorfman, Team 29’s IT specialist. Dorfman stopped answering his phone around that time. The search lasted about 10 hours, after which Dorfman was taken away and “many things in boxes” were taken out of the apartment, Team 29 reported.

The officials from the Investigative Committee who carried out the search at the Team 29 office had a lawyer who was present at the time sign a non-disclosure agreement. When searching Pavlov’s wife’s apartment, the security officers were only interested in the lawyer’s belongings. Team 29 told MBX Media that Pavlov’s wife wasn’t taken for interrogation. Security officers also carried out a search at Pavlov’s dacha (summer home) in the Leningrad region.

The Russian legal community is calling on the authorities to stop the criminal persecution of lawyers and the arbitrariness against Ivan Pavlov. This was stated in an open letter signed by more than a dozen lawyers. “We believe that these actions by the law enforcement agencies are aimed solely at intimidating Ivan and his colleagues, to force them to abandon [taking] an active position in the protection of their clients,” the letter says. 

Team 29 is also defending Alexey Navalny’s team in the ongoing lawsuit seeking to outlaw the Anti-Corruption Foundation and Navalny’s political movement as “extremist organizations.” Lawyers from Team 29 are known for providing legal aid in high-profile cases, such as the treason case against scientist Viktor Kudryavtsev and the espionage trial of Karina Tsurkan, a former top executive at the energy company “Inter RAO.” Lawyer Evgeny Smirnov stated that both Ivan Pavlov’s detention and the police raids are “a blow to the protection” of the defendants Team 29 represents, but he promised that the human rights group’s lawyers will continue their work. 

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Story by Alexander Baklanov

Translation by Eilish Hart

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