Human Right Watch calls for immediate release of director of Ukrainian library in Moscow

58-year old Natalia Sharina was put under house arrest pending trial for keeping ‘extremist materials'

Human Rights Watch has called on the Russian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Natalia Sharina, director of the Moscow Library of Ukrainian Literature, who has been held under house arrest since October 30, informs Ukraine Today.

58-year-old Sharina was detained after Russian authorities ransacked the library and her apartment and confiscated material which they allege was created to "incite hatred" towards the Russian people.

Human rights activists say that if convicted the librarian could face up to 5 years in prison.

"The detention of a librarian for the materials in her possession is not only an assault on personal liberty, but on every person who cares about ideas and learning and education," said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The Russian government is sending a crude message that the books on your bookshelves could land you in prison, a disturbing throwback to Soviet times."

Sharina, who denies any wrongdoing, is to stay under house arrest till December 27 pending trial.

Russia's anti-extremism legislation bans "mass dissemination" of materials that the government designates "extremist." This places library employees at a particularly high risk of being charged.
An official list of extremist materials currently includes more than 3,000 titles and has been extensively used by Russian authorities to pressure independent groups, including Mejlis, the body representing Crimean Tatars in Russia-occupied Crimea.


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