Editor’s Note. Today, December 4, is election day in the Russian Federation. As of 4:00 pm Moscow Time, the web sites of the following organizations and media outlets were not functioning, allegedly due to massive cyber attacks: Golos Association, Echo of Moscow, Bolshoi Gorod, Map of Violations, The New Times, and Slon.Ru. Zaks.Ru, LiveJournal, and Russian News Agency were also reported experiencing problems today and in recent days.
On December 2, the court hearing in the case of the Golos Association took place. An employee of the organization asked me to make drawings of the hearing.
Golos was charged with violating Article 5.5 of the Russian Federation Administrative Code: publication of voter polls and its own election campaign research less than five days before the election.
Judge Svetlana Kalantyr: “[Its] guilt has been wholly proven insofar as the Golos Association published voter polls and its own research less than five days before the elections.”
The reason for the accusation was a banner posted on the Golos web site: when you click on it, you end up on another site: http://www.kartanarusheniy.ru/.
Grigory Melkonyants, deputy executive director of Golos, and defense counsel Ramil Akhmetgaliyev: “The site only contains a link to another site.”
At this site (kartanarusheniy.ru), the Golos Association and Gazeta.Ru [an online newspaper] have created a venue, “Map of Violations,” where voters send information about election campaign violations. It turned out that the United Russia party was involved in nearly all the violations.
The prosecutor’s office argued that the “Map of Violations” had violated voters’ rights.
Prosecutor Yevgenia Umpeleva: “The ‘Map of Violations’ affects the expression of the voters’ will.”
A letter from Vladimir Churov, chairman of the Central Electoral Commission, who has accused Golos of campaigning against United Russia, was grounds for the legal action.
The Golos Association received the subpoena to appear in court at eight o’clock in the evening on December 1, but the hearing had already been scheduled for December 2 at eleven o’clock in the morning. Consequently, defense counsel Ramil Akhmetgaliyev was unable to fully review the 100-page case file and write an appeal.
His verbal appeal for an adjournment due to the lack of time to review the case file and also because of the absence of Lilya Shibanova, director of Golos, who was away on a business trip, was rejected.
Judge Kalantyr: “The company Golos had sufficient time to prepare its defense.”
Judge Kalantyr: “The attorney’s appeal cannot be considered by the court because it was not notarized in written form.”
The prosecutor also had no time to prepare. Her technical knowledge of “links,” “banners” and “screenshots” amused those attending the hearing.
Prosecutor Umpeleva: “Screenshot is this program that copies into the clipboard.”
Umpeleva, in the hallway of the court building: “I had to make a quick call and find out what a ‘screenshot’ was.”
The prosecutor also said that the west promotes the Russian opposition via Golos.
Since neither the defense counsel nor the prosecutor nor the judge had had an opportunity to thoroughly review the case and did not understand what was happening, the hearing was recessed several times for thirty or forty minutes. During these recesses, the prosecutor escaped to another floor [of the court building] and began calling someone, reporting on the progress of the hearing and asking for further instructions. Journalists attempted to eavesdrop on these conversations and find out what was being said.
The defense counsel said that the presence of the defense at such a hearing was a mere formality insofar as the court did not take its interests into account .
Ramil Akhmetgaliyev: “Any ruling made today will be illegal.”
The hearing lasted from eleven in the morning until seven in the evening.
After a two-hour recess the verdict was announced: the Golos Association was fined 30,000 rubles [approximately 720 euros].
The defense counsel said of the verdict: “The fine is a compromise decision.” He believes that the prosecutor’s office was in such a hurry to put pressure on Golos before the elections that it fabricated the case much too clumsily and was unable to get the court to apply more severe sanctions. He also suggested that the pressure on Golos would continue, which was borne out by developments the following day:
Grigory Melkonyants, deputy executive director of Golos, noted that such verdicts threaten any blogger who has posted an “incorrect” link.