Russian police officers had been secretly filming an opposition activist inside her bedroom for months before she was detained and charged under a new law on “undesirable organisations” in a move that has been described as “outrageous.”
Anastasia Shevchenko, 40, has been under house arrest for a year after she was slapped with charges related to her work for a civic group founded by Kremlin critic and former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Investigators in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don uncovered footage earlier this month, which showed the single mother of two in her bedroom, her lawyer and family said over the weekend.
Ms Shevchenko’s lawyer Sergei Badamshin posted the court order on social media, showing that police were allowed to bug and film inside her home for nearly five months before she was detained last January.
The police officers had somehow managed to enter the woman’s flat undetected, installed the surveillance equipment and then took it back months later, according to Mr Badamshin: “They left no trace.”
Criminal charges against Ms Shevchenko relate to her organising a public lecture and taking part in a rally that was sanctioned with authorities. If convicted, she could be sent to up to six years in prison.
Ms Shevchenko is the first Russian to be prosecuted under the 2015 law against undesirable organisations in what the Kremlin has said was an attempt to fight against foreign interference. It allows prosecutors to declare an organisation “undesirable if it “presents a threat to Russia’s constitutional order, its defense and its security.”
Several human rights groups have declared Ms Shevchenko a prisoner of conscience.
Ms Shevchenko’s teenage daughter Vlada said in a Facebook post that her mother was recently allowed to review the surveillance footage that showed her in her bedroom in underwear.
“Isn’t this embarrassing? It is. For the people in law enforcement,” Vlada Shevchenko said.
Russia’s beleaguered opposition has long grown used to street surveillance and police intimidation. But placing a camera in a woman’s bedroom has shocked many.
Opposition figure Leonid Volkov in a tweet described the bedroom surveillance as “absolutely outrageous” and said that Putin-era law enforcement officials ought to be prosecuted and barred from public office when Russia has a change of government.
A court in Rostov-on-Don last week extended Ms Shevchenko’s house arrest through March.