Indigenous Peoples activist arrested in Norway

Dmitry Berezhkov, former Vice President in RAIPON

Police Prosecutor Thomas Rye-Holmboe confirms to BarentsObserver that “a Russian citizen was arrested in Tromsø on Thursday” …and “the arrest is based on a demanded extradition from Russian police.”

Dmitry Berezhkov is the former Vice President of RAIPON, the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North. Over the last year, Dmitry Berezhkov has been a student at the University of Tromsø.

Troms Police District does not want to give any further comments to BarentsObserver on the details behind the arrest. “Further particulars in the case are something I can’t comment on,” says Thomas Rye-Holmboe.

A trusted source speaking to BarentsObserver who will remain anonymous says there are clearly political reasons for why Dmitry Berezhkov stays in Norway and can’t return to Russia. The source points to the fact that there over a long period had been a dispute between Russian authorities and RAIPON.

Dmitry Berezhkov was arrested just after returning from the preparatory meeting for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples that took place in Alta, Northern Norway from Monday to Wednesday this week. “The arrest is done in accordance with a Russian, Norwegian juridical agreement,” says Troms Police Prosecutor Thomas Rye-Holmboe.

Aili Keskitalo, Sàmi politican and former President of the Sàmi Parliament in Norway says the arrest of Dmitry is horrifying. “I am horrified over the fact that an Indigenous Peoples activist is arrested in Norway on his way from an Indigenous Peoples conference. This is a signal to us all that we have to be on watch,” says Aili Keskitalo in a phone interview with BarentsObserver Friday afternoon.  Keskitalo says she has little confidence in Russian prosecution authority. “I am sorry to say I am afraid Dmitry will not get a fair trial in Russia.”

“The power struggle between Moscow and RAIPON is a well known fact. The struggle was very visible at the February RAIPON Congress in Salekhard in Siberia,” says Keskitalo.

At the Congress, Indigenous right activist Pavel Sulyandziga had to withdraw his candidature after pressure as Moscow and gas-hungry Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District urged the candidature of State Duma deputy from United Russia Gregory Ledkov.

Public Prosecutor in Troms, Lars Fause, says to Nordlys the petition from Russian Attorney’s Office was sent to Norway in March. “There is nothing that suggests that this is anything other than a normal demanded extradition. It is noted that the indictment is not based on race, religion or political reasons. This standardized information in such requests,” says Lars Fause.

Dmitry Berezhkov will, despite Thursday’s arrest, not be automatically handed over to Russian authorities. “The case will be considered in court. We may also request additional information if we find it necessary. When the case is tried by the court, we weigh whether it should be an extradition. After the case tried in court, there is also a possibility to appeal the verdict, says Lars Fause to Nordlys. (Barents Observer)

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