Navalny’s Lawyer Detained During Live Interview
Olga Mikhailova – on the strangeness of the trials of Alexei Navalny in two criminal cases and an appeal to the Council of Europe
Alexei Navalny, founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation and the most famous critic of Vladimir Putin in today’s Russia, was sentenced on February 2 to 3.5 years in prison (counting 10 months of house arrest) in the so-called “Yves Rocher case”.
This verdict caused outrage in all Western countries: the United States and Europe are working on draft sanctions for the poisoning and persecution of Navalny, making it clear that the real prison term for the Russian oppositionist, if it remains in force, will have very grave consequences for Russia’s relations with the West..
In Russia itself, with protests against the arrest and sentence of Navalny, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Russian cities on January 23 and 31, as well as on February 2, and they were dispersed by the police with unprecedented brutality – thousands were detained, many were arrested and beaten.
In addition to the Yves Rocher case, the verdict of which was successfully challenged by Navalny in the European Court of Human Rights, a libel case was filed against the founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation last year – the oppositionist allegedly slandered World War II veteran Ignat Artemenko. The first meeting on this case took place on February 5 and was accompanied by many unclear points..
The Russian service of the Voice of America spoke with Alexey Navalny’s lawyer Olga Mikhailova, a lawyer who has been defending the oppositionist in courts for many years, about these moments, about his appeal to the Council of Europe and the conditions of Alexei Navalny’s detention in the pre-trial detention center..
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Alexey Navalny’s lawyer:; From the moment of arrival, it was a theater of the absurd
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Danila Galperovich: First, about the “Yves Rocher case” – how it happened that Alexei Navalny was sentenced on it to a real term?
Olga Mikhailova: Yes, this is a case concerning the change of a conditional sentence to a real one, even after the verdict of 2014, this verdict was the subject of consideration in the European Court of Human Rights. And the European Court ruled that there were violations of Articles 6 and 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights: the verdict was passed as a result of violation of the norms of criminal procedure legislation, an unjust sentence, and the actions for which Navalny was convicted are not a crime. Nevertheless, now the criminal executive inspectorate came out with a proposal to change the term, the court satisfied this and sentenced Alexey to a sentence of 3.5 years in prison. We have sent an appeal to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, attaching all documents, and we are waiting for a response from the Committee of Ministers. Already on February 11, we will be filing an appeal, and there will be an appeal hearing, when it will be – it’s hard to say, because our courts in this case are quite unhurried, and it’s difficult to predict the exact timing.
D.G .: You are appealing the decision of the Simonovsky Court to the Moscow City Court?
O.M .: Yes, the appeal will be in the same Moscow City Court, which previously provided its site to the Simonovsky Court for a verdict.
D.G .: In the Yves Rocher case, the ECHR found many inconsistencies and abuses, and were they in the process of changing the sentence??
O.M .: Firstly, on December 30, the trial period expired in the case, and such a hearing could have taken place for the only reason – if the conditionally convicted person disappeared. In our case, there are no facts that Navalny fled, since he notified the criminal executive inspectorate of where he was and indicated his address in Germany. Everyone knew that. Accordingly, there could not have been a court on these grounds that they did not know his whereabouts. There were also claims to Navalny that he did not appear on the set days. In fact, the inspection established different days – first on Thursdays, then on Mondays, he came to celebrate on Thursdays for several years, in the last year they decided that he should come on Mondays, on Mondays he did not always come, but he always came on Thursday. Nevertheless, these days, when he did not come on Monday, but came on Thursday, were counted as that he violated and did not appear. That is, in fact, there are no facts that he did not go. Among other things, they even say “well, well, we later learned that he was in intensive care,” but for some reason they still came to look for him at his place of residence in Moscow, knowing full well that he was in Germany. And, of course, the court did not substantiate the need to serve his sentence in a general regime colony, because the law allowed the appointment of a colony-settlement in this case. However, this was not done, and without proper motivation.
D.G .: The second case, about “libel” against a war veteran, as far as can be judged from the court session on February 5, was also strange?
O.M .: In the case with the veteran, everything is developing very strangely: the veteran first wrote a statement that he asked to consider the case in his absence, nevertheless, he was in court via video link. All our questions about who provides this video broadcast, and who is next to him, all the time there were different answers. As a result, it turned out that some judge of the Babushkinsky court is next to the veteran and certifies his identity. Then a very strange interrogation took place: the veteran read a small text from a piece of paper, after which he said that he would no longer answer any questions. On this, in fact, his interrogation ended – the parties could not ask any questions to the veteran at all. What kind of text it was in front of him, and who wrote it, also remains unknown. In our demand to show what kind of recordings he uses, the court refused us.
In addition, a number of witnesses were questioned, including the veteran’s grandson, who really did not like Navalny’s comment on the video with the veteran, and he also considered it necessary to file an application with law enforcement agencies that Navalny was brought to justice. During the interrogation of the grandson, the court session was suspended at the request of the prosecutor at the moment when we began to find out who nevertheless wrote the statement about the crime to the Investigative Committee (the grandson said that neither he nor grandfather wrote – nevertheless, in the materials case, there is such a statement, signed by the veteran himself, Ignat Artemenko). We wanted the witness to be shown this statement, the court refused us this, and then the hearing was abruptly interrupted. And, finally, during the announcement of the interrogation protocols (one of the interrogation protocols is more than ten pages), the veteran’s attorney felt bad, he asked for a break. And after the break, we were told that he was not feeling well, and his interrogation would continue at the next court hearing next Friday..
D.G .: Many people have the impression that the Russian justice system does not care too much about details, trying to keep your client behind bars anyway..
O.M .: Of course, such a plan was clearly developed. From the moment we landed, when our plane, in which we flew from Germany, was transported from Vnukovo to Sheremetyevo, of course, a complete theater of absurdity has already begun – with his arrest, with no access to his lawyers, with a court hearing in the police department , about which we were informed a minute before the start. It all looks like a farce. Moreover, everything that is happening to Navalny now happens with some completely total violations of the Criminal Procedure Code and the law. The situation, of course, looks like a staged one, and has absolutely nothing to do with justice..
D.G .: But, perhaps, such a disregard for the rules is indicative – they make it clear to everyone that they will not stand on ceremony, and a strong state, if it wants to put someone in prison, will easily disregard these rules.?
O.M .: You see, after all, all this could be done without violating everything that can be violated. Why this contempt for justice is shown, I don’t know.
D.G .: You said at the beginning about your appeal to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. When it was done and what is in it?
O.M .: We sent an appeal on February 5, and in it we informed the Committee of Ministers that Alexei was sentenced to a real sentence, which was the subject of the European Court’s consideration – despite the fact that the Russian authorities, having agreed with the decision of the European Court, paid the entire amount of compensation awarded by the court Alexey and Oleg Navalny. But they did not carry out the decision in the part concerning other measures, they did not begin to reconsider this verdict, did not stop the criminal case, but, on the contrary, used now to imprison him..
D.G .: Have you requested any urgent measures of enforcement from the European Court itself?
O.M .: No, we cannot do anything in this case, because there is already a decision of the European Court. And already the Committee of Ministers must deal with a violating state that does not fulfill the European Convention, which does not fulfill its treaty obligations, although even after new amendments to the Constitution, its 15th article is still in force, and the supremacy of international treaties over our domestic legislation is still valid. As a member of the Council of Europe, having assumed certain obligations, Russia is obliged to comply with the decisions of the European Court, but in this case it is indicative of gross violation of its obligations.
D.G .: Tell us what you know about the conditions in which Alexei Navalny is currently being held.
O.M .: He is in the Matrosskaya Tishina pre-trial detention center, in the “Kremlin Central” (a federal pre-trial detention center located on the territory of Matrosskaya Tishina – DG). In principle, his conditions of detention are still quite normal, he is alone, he has no complaints – at the moment, at least. The only thing is that there are problems with access to it, and we have not had any confidential communication required by law since the moment we parted at the border control at the airport on January 17.
D.G .: That is, you have never been allowed to talk to him normally, while keeping the secrecy of such a conversation.?
O.M .: We have never had any confidential communication, never, never! In a pre-trial detention center, we communicate through two glasses and a telephone receiver, in courts – during a convoy with the video recorders turned on. The situation was the same in the police department, where he was tried for the first time. The only thing is that the Moscow Regional Court allowed us confidential communication via video communication, but I think that it is also difficult to call it confidential: these are digital communication systems, and we can only guess how confidential this communication was..
Reporter for the Russian Voice of America Service in Moscow. Collaborates with Voice of America since 2012. For a long time he worked as a correspondent and host of programs for the BBC Russian Service and Radio Liberty. Specialization – international relations, politics and legislation, human rights.
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