Next week, on Friday 21 February, a Moscow judge will sentence eight defendants in the “Bolotnoe case” – people arrested in a crackdown that followed the protest movement of 2011-12.
UPDATE, 26 February. On Friday 21 February, all the defendants were found guilty. On Monday 24 February, Sasha Dukhanina received a suspended sentence of three years and three months, and seven other defendants were sent to penal colonies for between two-and-a-half and four years. Their supporters outside court were attacked by riot police. The campaign for their release continues.
Prosecutors have called for sentences of between five and six years in prison.The defendants – Sasha Dukhanina, Sergei Krivov, Aleksei Polikhovich, Artyom Savyolov, Denis Lutskevich, Andrei Barabanov,
Stepan Zimin and Yaroslav Belousov – are charged with involvement in “mass riots” and assaulting police officers.
The charges relate to a giant protest in Moscow on 6 May 2012, the day before Vladimir Putin was re-inaugurated president.
“What the authorities want is revenge”, Sasha Dukhanina said in her closing statement to the court on 5 February. She denounced the charges as “mendacious demagoguery unsupported by facts, a game played with a human life in the balance”. Dukhanina is accused of throwing chunks of asphalt, one of which allegedly struck a police officer, slightly bruising him and splashing a soft drink (kvass) from a bottle. Prosecutors have demanded a six-year sentence.
Dukhanina, a student at Moscow State University, , told the court: “They want revenge because we were there [at the 6 May demonstration] and saw how things really were.
“We witnessed who instigated the stampede, how people were beaten, and the unjustified violence. They are getting revenge on us for not bowing down to them and repenting for our non-existent crimes, neither during interrogations nor here, in the courtroom. They are also avenging me for not helping them further their lies, for refusing to answer their questions.”
Dukhanina contrasted her fate with that of the “real criminals” in Russia: the “pencil pusher, rapist or policeman” who as a matter of course is let off by the courts ; the investigators who are “absolutely untouchable despite the well-known cases of their involvement in drug trafficking, prostitution and rape”.
She added: “Many people have given me the opportunity to repent, apologise, say what the investigators want me to say, but you know, I don’t find it necessary to repent, let alone apologise, to these people.”
Dukhanina told the presiding judge Natalia Nikishina of the Zamoskvoretsky court that she had received “such substantial evidence of our innocence” that “if you send us all to the camps, you will be ruining our lives and our futures for nothing”.
Dukhanina (Alexandra Naumova), an anarchist who has been involved in such causes as Food Not Bombs and the defence of the Tsagovsky forest, was the first person to be arrested in the “Bolotnoe” case. She was detained at the Occupy Arbat protest camp in May 2012 and has been under house arrest ever since.
□ Read Sasha Dukhanina’s whole closing statement on the Russian Reader web site here.
The “Bolotnoe” trials have been denounced as a “parody of justice” by social movements and civil society organisations. Arrests were made months after the event with the help of police units dedicated to spying on social movements. Conclusive, publicly available evidence that defendants did not participate in rioting or do other things they are accused or has been ignored.
A further eight activists are due to go on trial. Three have already been sentenced, including Mikhail Kosenko – who could clearly be seen in a video NOT participating in an attack on a policeman of which he was accused – who was sent for compulsory psychiatric treatment.
The 6 May prisoners’ committee, which is campaigning to support the defendants, here, has gathered information on all the cases here (in English). In its appeal to Sochi Olympics athletes, here, the committee said that the trial “is attended by gross violations of the defendants’ rights.
“The trial participants are constantly interrupted, prevented from making statements, the defendants are denied copies of trial materials, video recording of the trial is not allowed, attendance of hearings is restricted.
“All of these violations had prompted one of the defendants – the middle-aged researcher Sergei Krivov – to go on a hunger-strike which lasted 65 days. During the entire period he was nevertheless forced to attend the hearings, when the judge brazenly refused to let the ambulance into the court room each time Krivov passed out.”
The blame for the violence that broke out on the 6 May demonstration lies squarely with the authorities, the letter argued. They had “deliberately
created a dangerous situation, preventing a huge crowd of peaceful protesters, numbering approximately 75,000 people, from passing freely along a narrow passage on the bridge to the square where the rally was planned to be held”.
Clashes with the police were provoked by “unidentified” rioters, and then, “on orders from the chiefs of the Moscow police, the police forces began to indiscriminately grab protesters, fiercely beating anyone who happened to be within their reach.
“Not a single representative of the authorities has been held responsible for the injuries sustained by protesters. Moreover, justice pursued a contrary course: in late May 2012 the authorities began to arrest random people who had taken part in the peaceful rally.”
So this is how a huge hydrocarbons empire spends its oil dollars. Billions go on the Olympic show in Sochi, aimed, among other things, at reminding the Circassians and other Caucasian peoples of the empire’s might. Millions more are used to pay for the state’s hired thugs to torment those who dare to strive for a society of people, instead of a society subordinate to the state. GL.
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