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Jailed Russian Blogger Describes Bolotnaya's 'Finale'

Russia -- Aleksander Margolin, Ilya Gushchin and Aleksei Gaskarov (L-R), charged with rioting on Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012, are seen in a cage during the announcement of the verdict in a Moscw court, Aug. 18, 2014
Russia -- Aleksander Margolin, Ilya Gushchin and Aleksei Gaskarov (L-R), charged with rioting on Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012, are seen in a cage during the announcement of the verdict in a Moscw court, Aug. 18, 2014

The following is a partial translation of a post that Russian blogger Alexei Gaskarov wrote from his prison cell. Gaskarov was arrested on charges of participating in mass riots and violence against the authorities on Moscow's Bolotnaya square on May 6, 2012. Gaskarov pleaded not guilty, but on August 18, he was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison.

This text was obtained by Radio Svoboda, RFE/RL's Russian service, through an electronic messaging service with the imprisoned, thanks to the assistance of "Rosuznik," which organizes support for persons in detention. The original post in Russian, which appeared on Radio Svoboda's website on August 22, is here.

Doing Away with Justice - Bolotnaya’s Finale

Before I share my impressions of the so-called "court," I would like to thank all those who have and continue to support us: “Zona Prava,” "Committee of the 6th of May," advocacy groups, PMC (Public Monitoring Committee), "Rosuznik," "Rus sidiashaya," and the Human Rights Council. All those who wrote letters to us, come to the rallies against repression, help with lawyers, go to the courts, disseminate information about our cause--without all of you, it would be much harder, and our sentences would be much longer.

It is very important that for many, solidarity was more important than the many negative circumstances, and the desire for freedom prevailed. Conditions may change--but the main thing is not to let the fire go out.

The attempt to suppress wholly legitimate protest has led to stagnation in the economy and obscurantism in politics. The ratings inflated by propaganda are as easily blown away as they are inflated, and it is not obvious who actually lost in this situation: we, who are being imprisoned, or they, who are living in a gilded cage. I am convinced that sooner or later Russia will become a free and prosperous country, and I hope that in the time it takes we will not be turned into camp dust.

Well, about the verdict. Of course, I see it as a 100 percent betrayal of justice. In anticipation of such an outcome, I brought along the verdict of the Zamoskvorecky court on the first group. The differences are only in our testimony and episodes, as well as the witness list. Otherwise, all the key points remain unchanged. The individual circumstances of our actions were not analyzed at all.

Why did they bother at all? It would have been more honest if Bastrykin [head of the investigative committee - eds] himself, or Center “E” [Main Department for Combating Extremism under the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation - eds] had handed out the prison terms. Of course, what happened was expected, but it made my blood freeze that they did not even come up with any arguments to challenge us...

In general, the argumentation in our case confirms the absence in the judicial system of its most important institutional elements. What kind of equality are we talking about, if police testimony is believed a priori, despite the fact that the video clearly shows that they attacked the demonstrators first, and the actions of the demonstrators were in self-defense? All of our witnesses, of course, were interested in defending us. For two of them, we took the precaution of subjecting them to a lie detector. Their testimony was accepted by the court, but the verdict said such results could not be considered as evidence .... Therefore, it turns out that the only expertise that can be accepted is that desired by the prosecution or the court. It makes no sense. However, I am sure that if we directed attention to all these absurd procedural aspects, they would tell us that we were abusing the law.

The absence of the rule of law, that is the ability to directly appeal to the law, is confirmed by the fact that we weren't told why the court considered the events of May 6 as mass unrest, constituting a criminal offence. [Article 212 of the Criminal Code stipulates that riots must be accompanied by "violence, pogroms, arson, destruction of property, the use of weapons, explosives, explosive, poisonous or other substances, and objects that represent a danger to others, as well as armed resistance to authority." - eds]

Thus any, even the most obvious articles of the law, are subject to doubt and interpreted to serve the interest of the prosecution ...

While we were detained, the so-called "people's representatives" have made changes to Article 212. Instead of clarifying what actions exactly are necessary to indicate mass riots, they added other evasive sentences about “the organization, financing, and conduct of activities aimed at organizing the riots”...

It is ridiculous to talk about the presumption of innocence, or the independence or principles of justice. When I was preparing for the court debate, I put together 25 pages of objections to the validity of the charges against me, but it turned out to be useless. I do not know what kind of truth Alexander Bastrykin was looking for in the trial, if objective evidence, for example in the form of a video, was not considered, and the decision is rendered on the basis of the subjective judgments of strange people.

Finally, this trail plainly demonstrated the professional tragedy of being a lawyer in Russia. At first, I thought that our defense took rather a passive stance, but now I realize that it was all very logical and rational. It makes no sense to prove something, when no one is going to respond to your arguments. I am very grateful to all the lawyers, because even among Russian society, brainwashed by propaganda, there is a minority who think our process is non-political. And this, of course is more important than the opinion of the Zamoskvoretsky court.

-- Alexei Gaskarov

(translated from the Russian by Larisa Balanovskaya)