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Spanish Pit Stop

The Finnish-Russian Civic Forum (FINROSFORUM) promotes cooperation between the peoples of Finland and Russia by supporting civic initiatives for democracy, human rights, and free speech.




Russian Anti-Fascist at Impasse in Spain

Spanish authorities continue to prevent Pyotr Silayev, an activist of Russia’s anti-fascist movement with refugee status in Finland, from leaving the country. He was detained on 21 August 2012 in Granada on an Interpol arrest warrant issued by Russia. Spain’s Audiencia Nacional imposed a travel ban on Mr Silayev pending the review of Russia’s extradition request. Earlier, officials at the Finnish Embassy in Madrid assured that an extradition to Russia was out of the question and that Mr Silayev would be released.

The Finnish Embassy provided the Spanish authorities with all the necessary documents attesting to the fact that Finland had granted Mr Silayev international protection and permanent residence. However, the Spanish authorities have refused to release him or even respond to inquiries about the current status of his detention. Earlier, Mr Silayev’s Spanish lawyer noted that an extradition process could take up to one and a half years, while the final decision on extradition cases rested with the Spanish government.

In October 2012, a group of Mr Silayev’s supporters in Finland, Free Pit Network, signed a petition demanding Mr Silayev’s immediate release. The appeal, which was handed out to the Spanish Embassy in Helsinki, pointed out that under the UNHCR Refugee Convention, no member state could expel a refugee to a country where his/her life or freedom would be threatened. Esko Repo, head of the asylum department at the Finnish Immigration Service, stressed that all EU countries had pledged to uphold the extradition ban.

Russian human rights defender Oksana Chelysheva said Mr Silayev’s impasse in Spain was setting a dangerous precedent in terms of the security of political refugees in EU countries. Referring to recent cases of asylum seekers being abducted in Ukraine and transferred to Russia and cases where political refugees from Central Asian authocracies were abducted in Russia and secretly moved to their countries of origin, Ms Chelysheva expressed concern that such extrajudicial practices would spread to the EU if left unchecked.

Free Pit Network urged Mr Silayev’s supporters not to stop campaigning in his defence and to continue exerting pressure on the Spanish authorities to release him. Mr Silayev said that he had almost lost hope of getting out of Spain, and that the Audiencia Nacional just kept ignoring the claims of his lawyer. Spain seems to be holding Mr Silayev in an arbitrary manner. Mr Silayev was due to appear this week at the Helsinki Book Fair to promote his novel, Exodus, which was published in Finnish by Into Kustannus.


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