Daily Archives: December 22, 2011

Petersburg Activist Filipp Kostenko Sentenced to Another 15 Days in Jail

memorial.spb.ru

The Persecution Continues: Filipp Kostenko Sentenced to Another 15 Days in Jail

December 22, 2011

On December 22, Judge E.K. Yermolina of the 153rd Judicial Precinct [in Saint Petersburg] sentenced Filipp Kostenko, an activist and employee of the human rights organization Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center, to another fifteen days of administrative arrest. For his involvement in mass protests against the rigged elections, Kostenko had already served fifteen days in jail, but in violation of procedure he was not released [as scheduled, on December 21].

As we have previously reported, the decision for Kostenko’s compulsory delivery to court was sent to the administration of the detention facility [where he was serving his first sentence] a few minutes before his anticipated release. This decision was made due to the fact that Kostenko had failed to appear in court [on December 9], although at that time he was serving fifteen days of administrative arrest.

This time, the activist was charged under Article 20.1.1 (petty disorder) for allegedly using foul language two months ago, on October 16, outside the 43rd Police Precinct. According to witnesses, on this day Philip had brought food parcels for detainees [at the precinct]. He was arrested and taken into the precinct building, although he had not disturbed the peace. There are a number of witnesses who can confirm this, and a video of his arrest also exists.

The court hearing lasted four hours, including recesses. An officer from the Extremism Prevention Center [Center “E”] was in attendance as a “spectator” the entire time, and from the very outset there was the sense that the most adverse ruling was a preordained outcome. For no reason at all, the judge rejected all motions made on behalf of the defendant, including motions to give the defense adequate time to prepare its case and to call witnesses. The judge granted only one motion by the defense: to admit V.V. Kostyushev, a professor at the Petersburg branch of the Higher School for Economics, as a public defender.

Because, in the court’s opinion, there were no grounds for “not trusting the reports filed by police officers that Filipp Kostenko had disturbed the peace by expressing a clear disrespect for society, which was accompanied by swearing in a public place,” the judge also rejected a motion to summon the [arresting] officers to verify their testimony and cross-examine them. In contrast to the reports filed by the police officers, the oral testimony of defense witnesses, who personally appeared in court, was not acknowledged as credible by the judge.

Despite numerous procedural violations, the lack of any real evidence (except for the evidence of the police reports, which Judge Yermolina found “compelling”), and an energetic defense, it was obvious to all present that the judge would give Kostenko the maximum possible sentence. The judge was not even troubled by the presence in the courtroom of numerous spectators and journalists (who, incidentally, were strictly forbidden from photographing anything or even making audio recordings).

Consequently, Judge Yermolina sentenced Kostenko to another fifteen days of arrest, and he has again been delivered to the detention facility at Zakharievskaya, 6. In the coming days, his attorney will file an appeal against this decision, as well as filing a new complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in connection with this new, illegal arrest (a violation of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights) [see below].

After this latest court decision was announced, Kostenko ended his sixteen-day hunger strike because all those detained during the post-election demonstrations in Saint Petersburg had been released, with the exception of Kostenko himself.

In the absence of an independent and impartial judiciary, the continued detention of Filipp Kostenko is obviously politically motivated. For all intents and purposes, [the state] is continuing to persecute Kostenko for his involvement in protest actions.

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Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights reads as follows:

1.In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. Judgement shall be pronounced publicly but the press and public may be excluded from all or part of the trial in the interest of morals, public order or national security in a democratic society, where the interests of juveniles or the protection of the private life of the parties so require, or the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice.

2.Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.

3.Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:

(a) to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him;

(b) to have adequate time and the facilities for the preparation of his defence;

(c) to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing or, if he has not sufficient means to pay for legal assistance, to be given it free when the interests of justice so require;

(d) to examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him;

(e) to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court.

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From a report on the hearing published on Free Voina:

Oleg Vorotnikov comments:

[Filipp] is one of the rare few who never use profane language at all.

Leonid Nikolaev, who also attended the hearing, reports:

The judge was biased. It was obvious from the beginning. Everyone was shocked by the incredibly rude manner in which she conducted the hearing. At one point, a defense attorney pleaded that [Filipp] was unable to participate in the hearing due to poor health (because of his 15-day hunger strike). In response, the judge inquired whether it was the jail personnel who starved him, or if he did it on his own accord. This is a gross violation of the procedure. The judge is only supposed to take into account the defendant’s present condition, not the reasons that caused it. [Filipp] was definitely unfit to participate in court proceedings. He was weak, did not ask questions nor make motions to the court, and when giving his testimony, he could barely stand.

The last witness of the defense was this pleasant, very civilized fellow. He somehow managed to induce rage in the judge even before he had a chance to open his mouth. She was incredibly pushy with him, especially because whenever she demanded something from him, he replied with “all right”. For some reason, she chose to interpret that as though he was making a judgement on whether her demands were right or wrong. The poor fellow almost got thrown out of the courtroom because of this.

I kept looking for a way for [Filipp] to escape. At one point the guards got distracted, so I suggested that he go downstairs, hop on my bike and get out of there. Turned out he was too weak for that. Damn hunger strike.

When the judge left the room after announcing her decision, the public started expressing its outrage out loud. Suddenly the judge barged back in and commanded the court guards to “write them up”. The guards grabbed a frail girl, activist of the Parents of St. Petersburg movement, and took her away. They are writing her up right now, and chances are she will be in jail with [Filipp] before the end of the day.

The arrested girl is Leda Garina, a film director and a friend of [Filipp]. She is reported to have been released after being fined 1000 RUB (30 USD).

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Femen: Kidnapped and Abused in Belarus

December 21, 2011
Ukrainian Activist Group Accuses Belarusian KGB Of Kidnapping, Abuse
by  RFE/RL

A Ukrainian women’s activist group has accused Belarusian police of kidnapping and physically abusing them after they held a public protest against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Minsk.

RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service reported that three members of the Femen group, held a press conference in Kyiv on December 21 to talk about their ordeal, which they said involved their abduction from Minsk by members of Belarus’s KGB to a distant forest, where they were stripped, doused with oil, and physically threatened.

Activist Inna Shevchenko pledged that her group won’t stop because of threats.

“If they think that by this bullying they will break us, I can only laugh in response,” she said. “We promise that we will continue coming to Belarus. We promise to support the Belarusian people. We will continue our work, now with greater strength.”

Femen is well known in Ukraine and throughout the region for its attention-grabbing strategy of stripping from the waist up at demonstrations for political freedom and women’s rights.

Their December 19 protest in Minsk was held to mark the one-year anniversary of Lukashenka’s disputed reelection.

Bare-chested and wearing fake Lukashenka-style mustaches at the December 19 event, the women held placards that read “Freedom to political prisoners” and “Long live Belarus,” a mantra of the protest movement.

RFE/RL’s Belarusian Service reported that security agents quickly broke up the demonstration and arrested several journalists.

Alleged Beatings

The three activists fled, Femen said, and hours later, were abducted at a Minsk bus station, blindfolded, and driven to the Gomel region, about 200 kilometers southeast of the  capital.

According to the three women, they were taken to a forest, beaten and forced to undress, doused in oil, and threatened with immolation.

The group says the assailants cut the women’s hair with knives and abandoned them in the woods.

The three found their way to a village, where they were given refuge by locals and were able to call Femen’s leader, Anna Gutsol, for help.

Gutsol told RFE/RL that the women said they were “alive but not in good health” and “very scared.”

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said the three women returned to Ukraine earlier today along with Kyiv’s consul to Minsk, who had traveled to the village to investigate.

Ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Dikusarov told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service that even though the women did not have permission to protest, “there are certain internal legal norms” that govern punishment for unsanctioned actions.

He added, “Thus, we absolutely do not support it if such actions took place on the territory of Belarus… This situation requires a thorough investigation, including on the territory of Belarus.”

In response to a question about Femen’s allegations, Ukraine’s foreign minister, Konstantin Grishchenko, also told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service that Ukraine should defend its citizens abroad. He did not mention Femen.

Belarus Calls Claims ‘A Provocation’

At the Femen press conference, Shevchenko claimed she and her fellow activists had told the police their story and were promised that there would be an investigation:

“We demand that the Belarusian ambassador [to Ukraine] be expelled,” she said. “We demand an investigation of the KGB employees who bullied us. We testified to the police, and we received a promise that a criminal case will be opened, but we have doubts about it because we understand that everybody is working to strengthen the Lukashenka regime.”

Vadim Zaitsev, a spokesman for the Belarusian KGB, told Western news agencies that Femen’s allegations are “a provocation” and denied security officers had harmed or threatened the women in any way.

Lukashenko, who is often called “Europe’s last dictator,” has been in power since 1994.

He was declared the winner in last year’s elections, but tens of thousands of Belarusians protested alleged vote fraud.

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Here is a video of Femen’s press conference in Kyiv following their arrival back in Ukraine:

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Petersburg “Law Enforcement” Continue to Persecute Activist Filipp Kostenko

Filipp Kostenko on the tenth day of his hunger strike

memorial.spb.ru

After fifteen days of jail and a hunger strike, Filipp Kostenko, employee of the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center, a human rights organization, has not been released: the persecution against him continues 

December 21, 2011

On December 21 at 7:30 p.m., the fifteen days of administrative arrest to which Filipp Kostenko, an activist and Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center employee, was sentenced after he was detained during protests against vote rigging in the [recent Russian parliamentary] election, expired, but Kostenko was not released as scheduled.

Kostenko was arrested for taking part in mass protests after the parliamentary elections. In protest, the activist went on hunger strike, demanding the release of all people detained during the protests. The hunger strike lasted all fifteen days he was in jail. His lawyers appealed the decision to arrest him, but the judge turned down the appeal. At the same time, a complaint was filed with the European Court of Human Rights and has already been registered.

At the time scheduled for Kostenko’s release, colleagues, friends, and journalists were gathered outside the detention center at Zakharievskya, 6. Eyewitnesses report that Center “E” [anti-“extremism”] police entered the building right at the time Kostenko was to be released. When Kostenko was not released at the time stipulated by the court, his lawyer went into the building to find out why. It turned that the decision had been made to immediately re-detain the hunger-striking activist and transport him to a police precinct for compulsory delivery to court on another administrative [misdemeanor] charge. Thus Kostenko has found himself back in jail, this time in a police precinct, until his new court hearing.

The compulsory delivery decision was made by Judge E.K. Yermolina for failure to appear in court on December 9 (that is, when Kostenko was already serving a fifteen-day sentence at the Zakharievskaya, 6 detention facility, a fact well known to law enforcement officials). This decision cannot be regarded as anything other than a deliberate plan to continue persecuting him.

The new court hearing is scheduled for December 22 at 10:50 a.m. in Judicial Precinct No. 153 at Bolshaya Raznochinnaya, 23. Kostenko has been charged with petty disorder for allegedly using foul language on the Petrovskaya Embankment on October 17 of this year.

The continued detention of Filipp Kostenko is obviously politically motivated: for all intents and purposes, it is retaliation for his activism and involvment in protests. In these circumstances, given his continuing hunger strike and the danger that he will be given yet another unjust jail sentence, Filipp Kostenko is in vital need of support from the public and attention from independent media.

Photo courtesy of Free Voina

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www.avaaz.org/en/russias_corruption

It’s outrageous – after flagrant vote-rigging and decades of corruption, the crooks-in-chief are throwing anti-fraud leaders into the jails they should be sitting in themselves.

The government is terrified of mass public protest. They know their credibility is at its lowest after blatantly rigging the election and are responding with the usual dirty tactics: mass arrests, blocking critical websites and filling the streets with troops. Despite this heavy-handedness, Putin has to appear responsive to the public in the run-up to presidential elections – and if we raise a massive outcry now, we can press him to release these brave activists and demonstrate that the cry for accountability has only just begun.

Let’s build a massive petition to show that our movement can’t be jailed or silenced.

When we reach 20,000 signers, we’ll deliver our call to free the protest leaders to Putin and broadcast it on major Russian media. Add your voice for their freedom now, and forward widely.

Editor’s Note. Sign the Avaaz petition here. It’s not that this will help our comrade Filipp that much, but it certainly cannot hurt. If you forward this petition to your friends and colleagues, make sure to forward this information about Filipp’s plight as well. If you need any information about his case or where to address your protests and calls for his immediate release, please write to us at the address indicated in the sidebar.

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