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].
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.
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.
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).