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Title:As a climate activist who has been jailed in Russia, I’m concerned about Australia’s treatment of Violet Coco
Date:12/8/2022 7:47:30 PM

I know what it is like to live in a country where there is no way to voice opposition

The case of climate protester Violet Coco, who was sentenced to 15 months in prison for briefly blocking a lane of traffic on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, is a frightening development. This was a peaceful protest, but the court refusing her bail until March is a condition usually imposed on violent criminals, according to her lawyer. A researcher from Human Rights Watch has called the sentence “outrageous”.

The escalation of this case to such a completely disproportionate punishment is a part of a trend of shrinking civic space that is being mirrored in other democratic societies. In the UK, new legislation is set to give the police unprecedented powers to shut down protests and punish protesters. New laws in New South Wales that Violet was convicted under were supported by both the Liberal government and Labor opposition, both of which take donations from the fossil fuel companies. These new laws mean that peaceful climate activists face far higher jail terms than serious criminals.

It is a worrying trend, and the stakes are high. I know what it is like to live in a country where there is no way to voice opposition when the government pursues policies with a callous disregard for life.

In 2019, I started a weekly climate protest in Pushkin Square in Moscow. The authorities make demonstrating in Russia almost impossible. To avoid restrictions on gatherings we stood in single file and passed a single cardboard sign between us. After 40 weeks, I was arrested and put in prison for six days.

Earlier this year, as the space for protest shrank further, my partner and I were forced to flee Russia after demonstrating against Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. In October, Russia stripped me of my citizenship, leaving me stateless.

There is no space for dissent in Russia. Anyone who tries to speak out is brutally silenced. While the war is the most egregious...

Organization:Guardian - Climate Change
Date Added:12/9/2022 6:37:23 AM