At least 88 Russian lawyers have signed a petition in support of their colleague Mikhail Benyash, stripped of his status as a lawyer by order of Russia’s Ministry of Justice.
“We know Mikhail Benyash as a professional lawyer and a fighter for independence of Russian advocacy. Mikhail Benyash has always fulfilled his professional duties diligently, every day he fought for his clients. Depriving a lawyer of his status for statements in which he expresses disagreement with the current position of authorities or bodies of lawyers’ self-governance is unacceptable. According to Article 29 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, everyone is guaranteed freedom of thought and speech,” the petition states.
They have asked to put an end to the persecution of Benyash and violation of his professional rights, as well as “stop using the Code of Lawyers’ Professional Ethics as a repressive instrument aimed at combating undesirable lawyers”.
The decision on removal of Benyash’s lawyer status was made by the Krasnodar region Council of the Lawyer Chamber on 17 February. The formal reasoning were two posts on his Telegram channel — the first one about the lack of turnover when it comes to presidents of lawyer champers and the second about the Justice Ministry’s actions when it comes to the “foreign agent” law.
According to the Justice Ministry, the posts are designed to “destabilise the socio-political situation”. The Qualification Commission and the Council of the Lawyer Chamber ruled that Benyash’s Telegram posts are connected to his lawyer activities and undermine the authority and trust towards advocacy.
Furthermore, the Krasnodar region Justice Ministry Directorate proposed the Lawyer Chamber strip Benyash of his status as a lawyer because of a post with “an analogy between Hitler and the Russian president”.