August 28, 2012
They Want to Murder Taisiya
I was running errands in the car when I heard about the Taisiya Osipova verdict. They gave her a savage sentence. Eight years behind bars for a women with diabetes is the death penalty.
They want to murder Taisiya.
Who among them is the chief sadist and flayer, I don’t know. Did Smolensk propose eight years, and Moscow said, “Well, we don’t mind”? That’s most likely how it was.
It is noticeable how the sentences given to National Bolsheviks are harsher than simple reprisals. Many times over.
We will not forgive.
Taisiya Osipova Jailed: Wife Of Russian Opposition Sentenced To 8 Years In Prison
By NATALIYA VASILYEVA 08/28/12
MOSCOW — A Russian opposition activist was sentenced Tuesday to eight years in prison in a review of her drug-related case – twice as long as prosecutors had requested in a ruling that drew immediate opposition outrage.
Taisiya Osipova and her supporters have maintained that police planted four grams of heroin in her home in 2010 in revenge for her refusal to testify against her husband, Sergei Fomchenkov, also a senior figure in The Other Russia opposition movement. A witness for the defense testified at the trial that he saw a police officer put the drugs in Osipova’s apartment.
Osipova had originally been sentenced to 10 years, but a higher court ordered a review of her case.
Tuesday’s unexpectedly harsh verdict comes two weeks after three members of punk provocateur band Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison for a surprise anti-Vladimir Putin performance in Moscow’s main cathedral. The decision sparked criticism in Russia and abroad as disproportionate.
It’s also being viewed as an ominous sign ahead of the trial of 11 people who were arrested on suspicion of taking part in clashes with the police at a protest rally in May this year.
Eduard Limonov, the leader of The Other Russia party, told Interfax on Tuesday that “this verdict is not only a political one, it’s also terrifying revenge.”
Fomchenkov reported the verdict on his Twitter account. The court in Smolensk was not available to confirm the verdict.
Prosecutors had asked for four years in prison for Osipova.
Osipova, 28, has been in jail since her arrest in 2010 and was originally sentenced to 10 years in prison in December 2011. A higher court in February overturned that decision, ordering the review of her case, while Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in an interview that the sentence was too harsh.
Left-wing opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov described the verdict in his Twitter as “a triumph of lawlessness and cynicism.”
Osipova was one of the most prominent names on a list of people activists described as political prisoners submitted to then-President Medvedev in February.
Mikhail Fedotov, head of the presidential council on human rights, in an interview with the Interfax news agency on Tuesday described the verdict as a “legal mistake.”
Like her husband Osipova is a member of The Other Russia, although she hasn’t been active since her daughter was born in 2006.
Opposition activists have staged regular protests against Osipova’s prosecution, arguing that charges against Osipova were aimed to pressure her for information on her husband, Limonov’s right hand man, who was trying to get the movement officially registered as a political party at the time of her arrest.
Osipova’s supporters also said that witnesses confirmed police discovering drugs at Osipova’s place were members of pro-Kremlin youth groups.
Police searched Fomchenkov’s Moscow apartment shortly before Osipova’s arrest in connection with “an economic case,” details of which were never communicated to the Other Russian functionary.
Osipova’s lawyers on Tuesday pledged to appeal the ruling. The Other Russia activists are planning one-man pickets across Moscow on Saturday to protest the verdict.
16 August 2012
Dreaming of justice: The Taisiya Osipova case turns into an absurd and cruel farce
By Oksana Chelysheva
Translated by Jonathan Bridges
Roughly a year ago, in one of my articles on the fate of Taisiya Osipova, ‘the Smolensk hostage’, I wrote about the case’s media coverage. At that point in time there were few publications that even hinted at fact that the case had been fabricated.
At the time the situation was being covered on a site created in Taisiya’s defence. The site was maintained largely by Sergei Fomchenkov, Taisiya’s husband. The blog of the art group (‘War’) was still the only source of information about the case. One of the members of the group, Leonid Nikolaev, still managed to pay occasional visits to Smolensk, where Taisya’s absurd trial, presided over by Judge Dvoryanchikov, started to unfold like a scene from Homer. I would like to offer my thanks to the international network of human rights organisations – the World Organization Against Torture – who even at this early stage took up Taisiya Osipova’s case and began questioning the Russian authorities on a regular basis.
A lot has changed in the last year.
Taisiya Osipova’s case has been covered by practically all of the Russian media, with the exception of Rossiyskaya Gazeta (‘The Russian Newspaper’). Even foreign media has managed to keep up with the case. Over the last year, articles about Taisiya have appeared in respectable American, Italian, Spanish, Slovakian and Finnish publications.
A campaign started by Maksim Gromov to support political prisoners’ children played a crucial role in the matter. The story of Katrine, Taisiya and Sergei’s daughter, told in photographs by Vladmimir Telegin, found sympathy amongst many people. In the spring, Vladimir Telegin put on a photo exhibition of Katrine with members of the Voina group and Yuri Shevchuk in Helsinki.
A campaign emerged from the positive response to this modest exhibition. As part of the campaign, photographs were sent to the President of the Russian Federation in the form of postcards containing short demands on Katrine’s behalf, such as ‘Let my mummy go’. Influential human rights organisations were not responsible for the hundreds of photographs. The whole thing was started by one Finnish woman who heard Taisiya Osipova’s story at the exhibition.
Information concerning Taisiya’s case even reached Dmitry Medvedev, Russian president at the time. When Medvedev was asked about Osipova at a meeting with students from MGU (Moscow State University), it emerged that the president had heard this surname in context before: “Ah, yes, sometimes rather severe sentences are given”.
The presidential council on human rights, headed by Mikhail Fedotov, has put Osipova’s name on a list of persons eligible for pardoning. On Medvedev’s orders, the Prosecutor General’s office checked all thirty cases. But, given the way these checks are normally carried, our confidence in them has been reduced to zero. Nevertheless, in Osipova’s case, the procedure adopted by the prelimary investigation and that implemented by the lower court were both so odious that even the Prosecutor General’s office was obliged to acknowledge “the obvious flaws and violations in the conduct of the preliminary investigation”.
This was followed by a statement from Medvedev in which he said he was “prepared to consider the possibility of pardoning Osipova on the condition that she write the request for pardon herself and plead guilty”. Notice the president’s wording, himself being a law graduate and a campaigner against legal nihilism.
He deliberately stressed the necessity for Osipova to plead guilty, which is not a legal requirement.
Since the very first day of her detainment in November 2010, Taisaya has refused to plead guilty, insisting that she did not commit the crime she is charged with. Having refused such mercy, Taisiya’s decision has undoubtedly been an agonising one. Bargaining with her conscience was something that she could not do and living with this slanderous lie would have been practically impossible for her.
On 15 February 2012, the penal chamber of the Smolensk Regional Court, made up of chairman Bezykornov and Judges Rumyantseva and Elizarova, revoked Judge Dvoryanchikov’s decision to sentence Osipova to ten years’ imprisonment. The case was sent to the Zadneprovsky District Court (where Osipova had previously been sentenced to ten years) for re-examination by a different set of judges.
Roughly a month after Judge Dvoryanchikov‘s ridiculous sentence had been revoked, I received a letter from a colleague of mine. In response to a question on how to free Taisiya, he wrote: “The case has after all been won. Even the president spoke about her. The sentence has been revoked. Is there any point in making a fuss about it?”
Yes, there is. There is every reason to make a fuss about it. As long as Taisiya Osipova is behind bars, the case will not have been won. Can her defence campaign be called a success if a new judge shouts at the lawyers and at Osipova herself during the court sittings? Taisiya Osipova is still in Pre-trial Detention Centre (SIZO) no. 1, in Smolensk. The possibility of another ‘guilty’ verdict cannot be ruled out entirely.
Meanwhile, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find people to sit in on Osipova’s court case.
Summer 2012 was marked by disasters and violence. After the inauguration of President Vladimir Putin, the number of political prisoners has been increasing not by the day but by the hour. Some of those who used to go to Smolensk to sit in on the hearings at Zadneprovsky Court are now being investigated in connection with other criminal matters themselves.
Appeals made to EU embassies and international human rights organisations for assistance in monitoring the court proceedings in Smolensk have not yet been successful. Either the court hearings coincided with Christmas and Easter, which made immediate decision making impossible, or strange explanations were given in response to Fomchenkov’s appeals as to why this or that “organisation did not have the financial and human resources to send a diplomatic mission to Smolensk”.
Fine then, let’s put it another way. Having the available resources is difficult. But there are documents available: court rulings, appeal court rulings, publications by journalists who have managed to get far away from Moscow and Smolensk. Ultimately, it would be possible to meet with Taisiya Osipova’s lawyers and find out what is happening and why an increasing number of people, familiar with the evidence put forward, think that Taisiya Osipova is not only an innocent victim of arbitrary rule but also a prisoner of conscience.
On 31 December 2010, the public prosecutor of the Zadneprovsky district of Smolensk signed Taisiya Osipova’s bill of indictment: “In Smolensk, at some point before 21 October 2010, a precise date and time were not established during the preliminary investigation, Osipova intentionally and of her own accord sought out an individual, unidentified during the course of the investigation, from whom she unlawfully obtained a narcotic substance, namely heroin, on a regular basis in an unidentified location with intent to illegally sell. She subsequently kept the aforementioned substance at her place of residence out of mercenary interest in material gain by dealing in narcotics. . .”
In other words, Osipova was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment on the basis of this “drug dealer”. The time and place of the crime have not been established, nor has the identity of the drug dealer. Osipova received time not for drug dealing but for having “the specific intent to commit a crime”. Bearing in mind that proving intent is one of the most difficult tasks of any investigation, we can consider the employees of the Smolensk Centre “E”, who organised and handled Taisiya Osipova’s case, to be true investigatory champions.
They put this woman behind bars based solely on the fact that she had “the specific intent to commit a crime”.
The same people’s testimonies make up the evidential basis: the ‘anonymous’ witnesses Ludmila Timchenkova and Denis Zvyagin (their names were changed supposedly to protect their identity), Semenistova and Kazakova, members of the pro-Kremlin youth organisation Nashi, and Savchenkov, a police investigator from the Centre for Combating Extremism, otherwise known as Centre “E”.
At the very start of this cynical epic, Captain of Justice S. A. Ivanova, an investigator for the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Smolensk, compiled a list of people who needed to be brought in for questioning. And a separate comment reads: “There are no witnesses for the defence.”
It all seemed so simple for the staff at Centre “E”: no one will ever notice that the witnesses and court have been trained to perform like circus animals. They had every chance of pulling off ‘Action Revenge’ on Fomchenkov smoothly and swimmingly.
It was apparent, even at this point, that both the search protocol and list of ‘witnesses’ were nothing but a pure fabrication. For a start, the search protocol states that Taisiya was home alone when the search was carried out – yet the video footage clearly shows another person in handcuffs sitting next to Taisiya. This person is Anton Mandrik. But for Centre “E” he was just another superfluous detail, which is why police investigator Savchenkov asked him ‘to sit quietly if he [didn’t] want to end up behind bars as well.’ When the court asked about witness Mandrik, Savchenkov simply said that he had forgotten about him.
At the hearing on 11 July 2011, Taisiya Osipova said that while her property was being searched on 23 November 2010, she had asked Savchenkov: “When will this drama end?”, to which he had replied: “Get your husband to come here and then this drama will end.”
Savchenkov made sure that there was as much drama as possible. His statements are included in Taisiya’s indictment: “Since I had police information about the fact that there were three fighting dogs in the house and that Osipova possessed weapons which she could have used at any time without warning, we decided to arrest Osipova with the help of the special forces unit.”
Evidently, Savchenkov had done his homework on Osipova and had reason to be wary of entering her property, where he ran more than just the risk of being hit in the face with a bunch of carnations, as happened to the lucky governor of Smolensk. And that’s why this terrorist-fighting ‘hero’ went into Osipova’s house with the protection of the special forces unit, shielding himself from the threatening National Bolshevik ‘drug dealer’ who knows how to use a gun, how to throw a punch and who was surrounded by French bulldogs, almost as if she were surrounded by a stone wall.
As for the three fighting dogs, the dog experts from Centre “E” are clearly useless. Only a complete idiot would try to pass off a French bulldog as a security threat . . . to his trousers. They also forgot the potential danger posed by the bunny rabbits Taisiya was holding and the ferret in the kitchen with its sharp teeth.
A list of the following confiscated items figures in the search protocol of Osipova’s property: five bags of heroin, ten syringes, a bottle containing the residue of a dark-coloured liquid, mobile phones, a computer and also a marked 500-rouble note. It is significant that according to the case evidence, the search was a result of a routine test purchase, which included Timchenkova giving Osipova 3000 marked roubles.
Sergei Fomchenkov commented on this mysterious detail: “The notes weren’t even marked. According to police files, the police just wrote down the serial numbers beforehand. If they had really wanted to catch the dealer, the notes would have been covered in a special substance which leaves traces on the hands of whoever handles it. That would have been objective evidence, but this was not what was done, since no drugs were actually sold. A single note had been put in the same set of chest of drawers that the drugs had been put in. According to the records on the test purchase, Timchenkova supposedly gave 3000 roubles to Osipova, in the following denominations: ten 100-rouble bills, two 500-rouble bills and one 1000-rouble bill – 13 bills in total. The search protocol states that only one 500-rouble bill was found at Taisiya’s address. The police investigator and attesting witnesses testified that no one had entered or left the address in the interval between the drugs being purchased and the property being searched. At the previous hearing, police investigator Smolin was asked: ‘What happened to the remaining twelve banknotes?’, to which he responded: ‘I don’t know. Perhaps she ate them.’ It would be funny if the situation weren’t so tragic. A question occurred to me: if Taisiya ate twelve banknotes, then why did she put the thirteenth one in the chest of drawers. That’s black humour for you.”
The regional court of appeal decided that both the investigation and the lower court had failed to overcome the obvious contradictions. The forensic report from 24 November 2010 states that the confiscated substance was heroin. However, the five bags confiscated during the search and the bags of drugs, which Timchenkova and Zavyagin – the undisclosed witnesses – supposedly got from Osipova during ‘the test purchases’ organised by Centre “E” from October to November, contained different kinds of heroin – both natural as well as synthetically manufactured. There is no explination as to why the forensic examination of the substance only took place after Taisiya’s arrest and not immediately after Zvyagin and Timchenkova had supposedly obtained it from Osipova.
The anaylsis of this substance was conducted by forensic experts without any witnesses present and at a time when it was being transferred from bag to bag. This suggests that the evidence was tampered with.
The investigators asked the team of experts carrying out technical assessments on the confiscated computer a question, the relevance of which is not entirely obvious to a narcotics investigation: “Does the computer in question contain information regarding the activity of the National Bolshevik Party which might incite national and religious discord, and furthermore, are there any symbols on the computer which bear resemblance to the Nazi swatstika or any corruption of it (most frequently used words and phrases: illegal immigrants, Russians, illegal residents, ‘Strategy-31’, ‘The Dissenters’ March’, manifestation, protest) . . . ?”
There was no clarification as to why police investigator Savchenkov helped himself to some of Limonov’s books during the search, which he also subsequently ‘forgot’ about just as he had forgotten about the witness for the defence, Anton Mandrik.
On 12 January 2010, Judge Voitenko of Smolensk’s regional court signed a court order allowing Osipova’s phone calls to be monitored. The order says, among other things, that: “The information we have acquired tells us that Osipova is Sergei Fomchenkov’s wife, through whom he is passing on monetary funds in order to set up a National Bolshevik Party in Smolensk.”
On 31 August 2010 the same judge signed another court order allowing Ospiva’s phone to be tapped. This one is much more informative: “Osipova uses the illegal revenue she gains from dealing drugs to help fund demonstrations planned and carried out by former supporters of the National Bolshevik Party, including the opposition party The Other Russia.”
Nonetheless, no explanation was given as to why the judges refused the defence’s request to play the phone call recordings in court. Moreover, this was not the first time the defence had submitted similar requests but in fact the fifth time: 3 May 2011, 11 August 2011, 26 August 2011, and 21 October 2011. Evidently, the Zadneprovsky Court knows perfectly well that allowing Taisiya’s telephone conversations to be presented to the court in detail would cause quite some embarrassment.
At least then we would have proof that on 22 November 2010, the day before her arrest, Taisiya received a threatening phone call from her acquaintance Khovrenkova, whom Osipova suspects of later becoming ‘witness Timchenkova’, warning her of the impending incident involving the drugs.
The regional court of appeal did not pay particular attention to the ‘anonymous witnesses’ for three reasons. First, the panel of judges did not believe that the witnesses’ “life and safety would be endangered”, as Grani.ru reports. Second, Taisiya Osipova recognised in ‘Timchenkova’ the drug addict Khovrenkova. Third, Osipova saw ‘witness’ Zvyagin owing to an oversight on behalf of the staff at the Department of the Federal Drug Control Service and said that she had never seen the man in her life. The court seriously breached procedural measures by allowing the ‘witness’ to see Osipova in the dock before confirming the defendant’s identity in court. The panel of judges noted in their decision to revoke Osipova’s sentence that “under section 5, article 278 of the Russian Federation Code of Criminal Procedure, the court shall have the right to conduct its cross-examination without making public the identity of the witness to protect his or her safety under conditions, precluding a visual observation of the witness, but which do not, at the same time, exclude his or her immediate participation in the trial. The cross-examination of the anonymous witnesses was carried out in the absence of the accused and thus prevented her from exercising her right to defence.”
The panel noted that significant contradictions in the testimonies given by witnesses for the prosecution had not been resolved, in particular descrepancies in the description of the woman from whom Timchenkova obtained the drugs. The phone calls of those supposedly present at the police search at Osipova’s address have been traced. They prove that it would have been physically impossible for them to have been there at this time, since mobile phone tracking reveals that they were on the other side of town.
The crime and the search protocol were not the only things falsified in Osipova’s case. Documents were also completely falsified, for example the local police officer Pisarev’s character reference for Osipova. Pisarev himself testified in court that he could not possibly have signed the character reference because he had already resigned from the police force when it was issued.
What we have here now are grounds to take legal action against police investigator Savchenkov and his colleagues not only for planting drugs and for the theft of six of Limonov’s books but also for giving false evidence in court and forgery. But in Russia we can only keep dreaming of justice and this time, in Osipova’s case, these dreams are getting smaller and smaller.
Editor’s Note. This translation has been slightly edited for republication here.