[See our first post on this case.]
THE CASE OF SEVA OSTAPOV IS GOING TO COURT
The website of the Institute for Collective Action (IKD) reports that Moscow student Vsevolod (“Seva”) Ostapov has been formally charged with assaulting police officers and that his case has been sent to the courts for trial.
This is the case that grew out of the April 4, 2008, incident at the Sokolniki metro station. The police attacked a group of young people there, beating several of them in the process. Many of these same young people were detained and the beatings continued at the Sokolniki police station. In order to cover up their abuses, right from the beginning the police began to cook up a case against Seva, alleging that he had attacked police officers. Dozens of witnesses have testified that this was not the case, but in our country the powers that be know how to stitch together even such an unpromising case. So now the case has been sent to the Preobrazhensky District Court, which must now set a date for a preliminary hearing within the month.
Moreover, the case against the policemen who tortured the young people, which was opened in 2008, was quietly sabotaged and closed in August 2009. Protests led investigators to reopen the case on September 14, 2009, but they extended the period of investigation for only one month. That month ran out yesterday [i.e., October 14], and once again we hear nothing about prosecuting the police officers for their crimes.
The Sokolniki case, which began as a brutal beating (cf. my first post on the topic, which was published in the early hours of April 5), inspired a powerful protest campaign. During that campaign, OMON riot police in Moscow dispersed a legally sanctioned picket against police abuse on April 11, 2008. A week later, young protesters carried out a totally unsanctioned march down Tverskaya (Moscow’s main street) from Pushkin Square to the Belorussia Station. (You can see photos of that march here and here; and videos here and here.)
There were more actions in Moscow in May 2008, and then the wave of solidarity actions spread to other Russian cities. A year later, in summer 2009, when it became known that the authorities were going to try to send Seva to jail rather than the policemen who tortured him and his friends, the campaign in his defense began anew. A hunger strike and several theatrical protest actions took place, as well as a protest concert on September 26, 2009, in Chistye Prudy in Moscow.
Activists have created an omnibus site with all the information on the Sokolniki cases.
I imagine that in the very near future we can expect statements and actions from those who are strongly opposed to the falsifications in both Sokolniki cases.
For now Ostapov’s attorney Yevgeny Chernousov has made the following statement to IKD’s correspondent:
“We disagree with the prosecutor’s decision. Ostapov is not guilty. The prosecutor has ignored the fact that the record contains testimonies from 17 witnesses that show Ostapov’s innocence. Only two witnesses — beat cops — have given testimony that Ostapov committed an assault. A question arises: if the prosecutor has decided that the testimonies of these 17 people are false, then why isn’t he filing charges against them for giving knowingly false testimony? At the very first court hearing we intend to ask the court to make a ruling on whether such charges should be filed.”
According to IKD, Chernousov believes that the Ostapov case marks a precedent: from the very outset, the investigation took the side of police officers. This is an obvious breach of civil rights. The consequence of such cases is that citizens understand that the ‘policeman is always right’ and in any conflict they will prefer to solve the problem by offering a bribe. Which only reinforces corruption in the ranks of the law enforcement authorities.
During the investigation, Investigator Kobzar refused to show Vsevolod Ostapov and his attorney a video provided by the channel REN-TV despite the fact that they have the right to examine material evidence. In all likelihood, the video shows clearly what happened at the metro station. For some reason, this video was filed as evidence in the investigation of the beatings in the police precinct despite the fact that it is a record of the conflict near the entrance to the Sokolniki metro station. All these irregularities have led to the filing of numerous complaints.
Now the case is in the hands of the court system. The witnesses are ready to go to court and confirm their testimonies. These witnesses include not only young “informals” (Seva’s acquaintances), but also random passersby who stopped to look when they heard the screams of the young people as they were being beaten.
“If Ostapov is found guilty, that will signal that there is no hope that the situation with the law enforcement authorities will change,” says Chernousov. “A month has passed since the investigation into the case of the beatings of five young people at the Sokolniki police precinct was reopened, but no steps to investigate the case have been taken. It is obvious that an order has come down not to investigate the case.”