Trial for Bolotnaya Protesters Nearing Completion

February 3, 2014
The defendants in the Bolotnaya Square case in Zamoskvorechye district court, Janurary 22, 2014

“There is not one piece of evidence that confirms the guilt of the accused,” said Alexei Polikhovich’s lawyer, Alexei Miroshnichenko. “The whole trial is politically motivated.”

His colleague Olga Grigorenko, also defending Alexei Polikhovich, elaborated on the property damages, totalling 28,228,000 rubles, which, according to the indictment, the defendants have to repay. Advocate Grigorenko said that “a substitution of notions is taking place. There is no evidence that this property was destroyed. (This refers to police equipment, special gear and the asphalt surfacing of Bolotnaya Square – The New Times).

According to the lawyer, there is in fact no evidence that the defendants were involved in the damage of the public toilets. And furthermore, neither Alexei Polikhovich, nor the other defendants, have anything to be tried for – there is no objective evidence of their guilt.

In addition, following the events on Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012, Polikohovich was detained by administrative order. The administrative case against him has since been dropped.

No one can be convicted twice for the same offence

The theme of the improper classification of the charges against the defendants and double jeopardy resounded in almost all the defence counsels’ statements.

Stepan Zimin’s lawyer, Maxim Pashkov reminded the court that a single act cannot be classified under two articles of law: “participation in mass riots” and “use of violence against a representative of authority”.

“No one can be convicted twice for the same offence” added advocate Alexei Miroshnichenko to their colleague.

And advocate Dmitry Dubrovin, who defended Denis Lutskevich and Alexandra Dukhanina-Naumova, drew the court’s attention to the fact that the prosecution had failed to convincingly prove that there had been an offence under Article 318 in relation to Lutskevich, because “it is obvious that Lutskevich committed no kind of violence upon police officer Troerin. The policeman has said in court that Lutskevich’s act, of ‘snatching his helmet,’ caused him neither physical nor psychological suffering. But dissatisfaction cannot constitute violence,” concluded advocate Dubrovin.

Unclear accusations

As for the charges against Alexandra Dukhanina, they are, according to advocate Dubrovin, impossible to speak of, because it is unclear what she is accused of: the indictment does not comply with the law.

“The only possible decision the court can make is to acquit all the defendants,” concluded Dubrovin’s speech, amidst public applause. Dubrovin did not actually hear this applause. Those who were clapping were watching the lawyers’ presentations in a small ‘press pen’ in a lobby on the ground floor of the Zamoskvorechye court.

The floor was then taken by photojournalist Dmitry Borko, who has been a public defender of Alexandra Dukhanina throughout the trial.

Video manipulation

“This case is very significant, not only in terms of its public importance,” said Bortko. “This is probably the first time that there has been so much visual information in the evidence for a case. As a result of the work done to collect a huge amount of video footage for this investigation, we can expect to create a detailed and accurate, chronological picture of the events, reflecting their sequence, the actions of all sides and participants, and most importantly, the logic and interrelation between individual episodes and actions. Only in this way, by drawing on the video, can the court establish an objective picture of what happened, of the motives and circumstances of all the actions in the case.”

He showed, using specific examples, that investigators and prosecutors had used video material in their own interests. They had manipulated them, leading to incorrect assessments of the events that took place on May 6 on Bolotnaya Square. Because of this, according to Bortko, all of the protocols for inspecting the video evidence, which appeared in court, must be critically examined.

“Let her go to her studies, not to a camp!”

In his closing speech, the defence counsel told the judge about Alexandra Dukhanina. He is certain that the conviction of this young woman would be a great mistake:

“Let us imagine a girl, who spent her childhood in a quiet and comfortable country, and then left her mother’s house to go to school in her homeland. She has her parents, but she hasn’t lived with them ever since her school years, instead living with relatives or guardians. And then she is completely alone. If this girl was able to talk publicly about it, she would talk about how she found herself crushed and completely alone amidst a fearsome crowd whilst experiencing feelings of fear and loneliness. About how her back was pinned against the stone parapet and she was almost thrown into the water. About her shock when, whilst she was squeezed in the middle of the crowd, and having no idea what was going on outside, armor-clad riot police suddenly piled in, smashing people in their way and grabbing people who were simply standing next to her. About her sense of horror and the sincere, almost childish outrage at the injustice that was happening, and in relation to herself as well. About how, being accustomed to defending herself, she tried to find some solution. Unfortunately, she was only able to tell this all, emotionally, to me alone, only because I succeeded in gaining her trust.

“In psychology there is a concept of the ‘infectiousness’ of actions. This is especially characterized in children and adolescents. Caught in totally unfamiliar and difficult situations, lacking their own experience, they often mechanically copy someone else’s actions. Even if they are unsuccessful or incorrect, this gives them such a valuable experience that the next time, people are capable of choosing their own solution. Perhaps Alexandra sought refuge and threw something. Perhaps, (as I stated on record, someone next to her threw a bottle before her own actions), she copied someone else. I think that after everything that happened there, and what followed, she has learnt a valuable lesson. And I am certain that, should she ever find herself in the same situation again, she will not choose to be abusive. She is not that sort of person. During her house arrest this girl has found a new profession for herself, a veterinarian, (we have all seen the books on biology and medicine that she has repeatedly brought to the court,) and she is incapable of deliberate violence against anyone. This is confirmed by the conclusion of a psychologist, which has been submitted to the record. Let’s just let her go and study this, it will be beneficial and useful, and our society will gain from it.

“And I say once again: 9 minutes amidst the chaos and confusion, 9 minutes of fear and an attempt to somehow escape or defend oneself, and the six years of her life which her charge demands she be robbed of – is this really a fair equation?”

Freedom to the Bolotnaya prisoners!

The last to speak was Sergei Krivov’s lawyer, Vyacheslav Makarov. His speech, like his defendant’s on Monday, was political. He spoke about how we have been witnesses to “a hopeless case, where the apparatus of repression is pursuing dissent.” Like the other defence counsels, he asked only one thing of Justice Nikishina: the complete acquittal of the defendants.

Justice Nikishina did not want to continue the proceedings, she transferred them to Wednesday and quickly disappeared into the deliberation room.

The audience, who had followed all five hours of the proceedings from the small press pen on the ground floor, got out of their chairs and began to chant: “То Freedom! То Freedom!” Nobody put a stop to them. The lawyers emerged from the courtroom. They said that in room number 410, where the trial was going on, they could hear what was happening outside well, and that the defendants were very pleased that people had come to the court to support them.

On Wednesday, January 29, the lawyers will probably all complete their arguments, the defendants will make their final statements, and justice Nikishina will leave for sentencing.

People come to Zamoskvorechye court every day. There are not as many of them as would be liked. Several dozen. But human rights activists haven’t forgotten about this case. Today, members of the Human Rights Council made an appeal.

“The first group of trials for the events of May 6, 2012 have entered their final stage. Of the twelve defendants, only four were amnestied, there are eight people awaiting sentencing. The others are awaiting the starts of their trials,” said their statement.

“The prosecutor’s office has already demanded a six year sentence under general regime for Alexandra Dukhanina (who married Naumov) and Sergei Krivov; five and half years for Andrei Barabanov, Stepan Zimin, Denis Lutskevich, Alexei Polikhovich and Artem Savelov; and five years for Yaroslav Belousov.

By tradition, the court may slightly reduce their prosecutorial appetites, in the event that they snip off a little more of the sentence to show humanity.

Any sentence that leaves the Bolotnaya prisoners in prison for years will be perceived by the Russian and international community as a cruel and cynical demonstrative reprisal.

It is well known, and has been confirmed by what we have heard and seen in the six months of the trial, that there were no mass riots on that day in Moscow. This is even more evident when we compare these events with the confrontations on the streets of Kiev. The physical and emotional injuries suffered by the members of the security forces are insignificant in comparison with the scale of the crackdown on the evening of May 6 around Bolotnaya square, and the cruelty demonstrated by the police themselves and the troops of the special forces. The trial has shown that there is no evidence that the defendants inflicted any noticeable casualties.

This is all perfectly well understood by the court, the authorities, society and the experts.

If they are convicted, it will show that the authorities, regardless of their previous steps, have chosen a collision course with civil society.

Signatories to the appeal:

Ludmilla Alexeeva, chairwoman of the Moscow Helsinki Group

Svetlana Gannushkina, chairwoman of the Citizen’s Assistance Committee

Valery Borschev, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group

Yuri Vdoven, deputy chairman of the Citizens Watch NGO

Oleg Orlov, member of the Board of the Memorial human right centre

Lev Ponomaryov, executive director of the all-Russian movement For Human Rights