Alexei Gaskarov, Civic Activist, Opposition Coordinating Council Member,
and Anti-Fascist, to Remain in Police Custody until October 6
June 25, 2013
“Phones on vibrate mode, keep your comments to yourself. Young woman, don’t talk to him!” a bailiff interrupts a young woman in a “Free Alexei Gaskarov” t-shirt (Gaskarov’s fiancée Anna Karpova). Gaskarov himself stands behind bars and peers into the courtroom. Today is a hearing on whether to extend his detention in police custody and thus one of the few days when family and friends can see him.
Defense counsel Svetlana Sidorkina motioned for several pledges to stand surety, including those made by Novaya Gazeta editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov and Rain TV owner Alexander Vinokurov (who came to court in person), to be entered into the record, as well as positive character references of the defendant submitted by the Opposition Coordinating Council (to which Gaskarov was elected with twenty-two thousand votes) and its local analogue, the Zhukovsky People’s Council. Igor Volk, a cosmonaut and Hero of the Soviet Union, and Vladimir Kondratenko, a distinguished Soviet test pilot, also honored Gaskarov with positive letters of reference. Sidorkina likewise motioned for a petition, signed by five hundred residents of Zhukovsky (where Gaskarov was born and lives), calling for less severe pre-trial restrictions, and media articles detailing Gaskarov’s activities as an anti-fascist and public figure, to be entered into the record. “Would someone hiding from the law be engaged in social activism?” she asked.
Investigator Alexei Bykov predictably asked the court not to admit most of this into the record: “The main character reference for Gaskarov—that he was part of a group of people that attacked police officers—is quite sufficient.” From his cage, Gaskarov reiterated to the judge that he had pulled a police officer away from a demonstrator whom the officer was attempting to detain, but that he did not regard this as a violent confrontation: he had no intention of hurting the policeman and caused him no physical harm. Gaskarov himself was beaten on Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012, and soon afterwards he filed a complaint against the riot police who had attacked him, along with a medical report on his injuries. “This shows I had no intention of going into hiding,” he explained to the judge in the quiet, calm voice one uses to pacify a child.
Bykov read, it seems, from the same document as during Gaskarov’s arrest hearing in April, because the language was the same: “[Gaskarov] led a secretive life, changed places of residence, and planned to go into hiding abroad.” Except before it had simply been “abroad”; now the record also contains “countries with anti-Russian sentiments,” where, according to the investigation, Gaskarov often traveled.
Yegor Ozherelyev, a colleague of Gaskarov’s from the consulting company Expert Systems, came to court in person to deny that Gaskarov had been in hiding before his arrest. He showed that Gaskarov was a responsible employee who successfully coped with any task and came to work punctually, being absent only when he had been met outside the office by members of the security services and taken away for a “chat.”
Sidorkina moved that Gaskarov be released on bail: his mother had pledged her apartment, which is valued at 3.5 million rubles [approx. 81,000 euros] and where her son is officially registered. “He owns no apartment. The mom is a different person,” said the prosecutor in his objection to the motion.
A new witness has emerged in the Gaskarov case. His identity is classified, like that of the previous two witnesses, but unlike them, he is not a police officer but someone who identifies himself as a member of the anarchist movement. According to his testimony, he fears for his life, because “activists don’t like cooperating with the police.” He claims that the goal of the anarchists is confrontation with the state system, and their ideology centers on violent action.
“They’re following the Khimki scenario. When they don’t have enough evidence, they put together false testimony. I think this person doesn’t exist,” says Gaskarov’s girlfriend Anna Karpova.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Svetlana Sidorkina delivered an impassioned speech.
“Since I have gotten to know him better, I have begun to respect my client five times more. I have never met a person with such ideal character references: everyone, young and old, speaks of him as a remarkable man. If he were freed, he would be of far greater benefit to the country. The investigator has not specified how Alexei could hinder the investigation [were he released from police custody].”
“Sufficient grounds have not be adduced for not extending the arrest,” the prosecutor said laconically in closing. People in the courtroom laughed helplessly.
Judge Skuridina extended Alexei Gaskarov’s arrest for three month and eight days, until October 6.
Photo by Yevgeny Feldman for Novaya Gazeta
Moscow activist Ilya Budraitskis:
Today Alexei Gaskarov’s detention in police custody was extended until October 6, that is, until the official conclusion of the Bolotnaya Square investigation. I no longer have the strength to describe all the shit that went down at the Basmanny district court. The only thing worth noting is the expanded version of the report issued by Center “E” [the “anti-extremism” police], which was read aloud by Judge Skuridina. Autonomous Action and “other radical leftist groups” are now openly identified as sources of permanent anti-state violence, and the motive for keeping Alexei in custody is his “authority within that milieu.” This in fact is the answer to a frequently asked question. How does Gaskarov’s case stand out from the Bolotnaya Square case as a whole? By its clear, no longer merely political, but ideological orientation. We are dealing here with a show trial aimed specifically against the radical left, publicly recognized as a potential threat. And disrupting it is a matter of our common future. So follow the campaign at gaskarov.info. Make suggestions, participate and, most important, don’t lose heart.
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