Where Is Nikolai Alekseev?
September 17th, 2010
The organizer of Moscow gay pride parades Nikolai Alexeev said that he intends to seek political asylum in Belarus.
“At present I am in Minsk and intends to ask the authorities for political asylum in Belarus”, – said Nikolai Alexeev Interfax through short SMS-messages.
According to him, he also decided to withdraw all claims of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on the prohibition of shares of sexual minorities in Moscow, 2006, 2007 and 2008. “Due to the pressure exerted on me I decided to withdraw the complaint on the Moscow authorities ban gay pride parades in 2006, 2007 and 2008 from the European court,” – he said.
Reports that we, UK Gay News, Interfax and others have relayed so far have reportedly originated from SMS text messages from Nikolai’s phone. But if Nikolai is in the custody of Russian authorities, then his phone is also. A few other reports have originated from email messages that several LGBT activists and bloggers around the world (including BTB) have received from Nikolai’s email account. But as we noted yesterday, those messages, too, are suspect; Nikolai had his laptop with him when he was seized at Moscow’s Domodedovo International Airport as he was about to board a Swiss Air flight to Geneva.
Late yesterday, we received an apparently confirmation email from someone who is not Nikolai (the email speaks of Nikolai in the third person) from Nikolai’s email account saying that Nikolai was free and in Minsk. There is no indication of how he got there, and this is extremely critical. As one astute BTB commenter noted, Belarus, unlike Russia, is not a member of the Council of Europe, which means it is not subject to the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. And yet it is a very close Russian ally, as well as an anti-gay dictatorship that has been ruled with an iron fist by Alexander Lukashenko since 1994. Virtually nothing in Belarus has changed since the days of the Soviet Union.
Which means that as long as Nikolai is in Belarus, he remains in an even more repressive state than Russia with no legal recourse for the protection of his human rights. And yet because Belarus is such a close ally of Russia (there has been talk of a re-union between the two countries), Nikolai remains subject to the whims of Russian authorities. If one were to seek asylum from Russia, Belarus would be the very last place one would go to.
Further, if he is in Belarus, there is no indication whatsoever that he is free. UK Gay News reports that their contact in Minsk’s gay community say that no one there has seen or heard from Nilolai, who has extensive contacts in the Belorussian capital — he helped to organize a pride conference and march there last October. But no one has heard from him in person.
But the most worrying indication that Nikolai may still be in personal danger is Interfax Belarus’ report that he supposedly withdrew his complaints against Moscow city authorities before the European Court of Human Rights. This is is not the least bit consistent with a man the world has come to know and admire for his personal courage. He bravery earned him the title of “Global Pride Warrior” in an Advocate article in July, 2009. To acquiesce on the case before the European court is completely outside of his character.
[Update: Another LGBT advocate in Russia, Alexei Davydov, wrote a blog post at Anti-Dogma saying he received an SMS text message from Nikolai saying he had signed the papers to withdraw his complaints from the European Court. The activist responded with a question that only he and Nikolai knew the answer to. At that point, "the connection was lost." He also notes that another Russian activist, Anna Komarova, experienced the same thing. This means that all messages purportedly from Nikolai are suspect.]
We echo this call from Andy Harley of UK Gay News, who is a personal friend of Nikolai’s: “Until Mr. Alekseev actually contacts someone by “voice” telephone and says where he is – and that he is a free man, concerns will remain. But at the present time, there are serious doubts.”