“One Must Serve the Motherland, I Say!”
Basmanny District Court Extends the Arrest of Bolotnaya Case Suspect and Anti-Fascist Alexei Gaskarov
October 3, 2013
Alexei Gaskarov in court, June 26, 2013. Photo: Ilya Pitalyov / RIA Novosti
On Tuesday, October 1, Moscow’s Basmanny District Court extended until February 6, 2014, the arrest of Alexei Gaskarov, whom police investigators suspect of involvement in the “mass riots” on Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012. Gaskarov has been charged with violating Article 212, Section 2 (participation in mass riots) and Article 318, Section 1 (use of violence against authorities) of the Russian Federal Criminal Code.
February 6, 2014, is the date to which the investigation of the events on Bolotnaya Square has now been officially extended. Earlier this week, the court extended the arrests of the other defendants whose cases have not yet been submitted to the court. Ilya Gushchin, Alexander Margolin, Dmitry Rukavishnikov, Sergei Udaltsov and Leonid Razvozzhayev will also remain in pre-trial custody until February 6.
Another defendant, pensioner Elena Kokhtareva, has been released under her own recognizance. The case of Udaltsov and Razvozzhayev, whom investigators have accused of organizing the “mass riots” (a violation of Article 212, Section 1 of the Criminal Code), has been separated from that of the other defendants.
Investigator Alexei Chistyakov asked the Basmanny District Court to extend Gaskarov’s arrest for another four months, as the investigators have established that Gaskarov “used violence” against Igor Ibatulin, an officer with the Second Tactical Regiment of the Moscow Police, and a soldier by the name of Bulychev.
“In defiance of society’s moral norms, Gaskarov committed the crime in the presence of a significant number of people, taking advantage of numerical and physical superiority, and showing a clear disregard for the authorities. Moreover, his role in this case was particularly active and most aggressive,” Chistyakov read aloud to the court.
According to Chistyakov, Gaskarov presented a flight risk, since before his arrest “he did not live at his registered domicile, led a secretive lifestyle, spent the night at different locations and used various conspiratorial techniques.” Gaskarov should, therefore, be kept in a pre-trial detention facility.
During the hearing, Svetlana Sidorkina, Gaskarov’s lawyer, asked the court to enter character references submitted by the newspaper Zhukovskie Vesti and the Zhukovsky People’s Council into the record, as well as screenshots of a video recording from the case file. These stills show a police officer kicking Gaskarov in the face as Gaskarov lies on the ground.
Chistyakov and the prosecutor, Karasev, did not object to the character references being entered into the record, but they strongly objected to the shot breakdown of the video.
“The actions of law enforcement officers are not at issue in this hearing,” said Chistyakov.
Judge Artur Karpov, a man with a bald skull, agreed with their arguments and refused to enter the images into the record.
“And why is that you were found only partly fit for military service?” Judge Karpov asked, suddenly digressing from the tedious review of the case file.
“For medical reasons, but I can’t remember what exactly,” Gaskarov replied.
“How is it you don’t remember? Everyone remembers the reason they didn’t go into the army, but you don’t?”
“It was ten years ago. It had something to do with my eyesight, with intracranial pressure and something else. But now I just—“
“You just got over all those things? When did that happen? Before you turned twenty-eight?”*
“I wasn’t keeping track.”
“You weren’t keeping track. . . You should have served the Motherland,” the judge muttered.
“I wouldn’t object to serving in the army in exchange for being released from jail,” the defendant laughed.
“In exchange for working as a journalist?” After reading the character reference from the Zhukovskie Vesti newspaper, Judge Karpov had for some reason decided that Gaskarov works there. “One needs to serve in the army. Anyone can be a journalist, but probably not just everyone can serve the Motherland. Why this ‘in exchange for’ right off the bat? One must serve the Motherland, I say!”
Judge Karpov was unrelenting.
“Down in Dagestan, there is a waiting list to get into the army. Being a journalist is easy. You get up when you like, go to sleep when you like, go to work when you like.”
After this emotional outburst, lawyer Svetlana Sidorkina moved that the court change Gaskarov’s measure of restraint to one not involving deprivation of liberty—to house arrest or release on bail.
“Yes, I think this would be possible,” Gaskarov replied, smiling, to the judge’s question about what he thought about the motion.
Karasev and Chistyakov categorically stated that only if Gaskarov were in a pre-trial detention facility could the investigation proceed unhindered. Judge Karpov agreed with the prosecution on this point as well and, after a recess, ordered Gaskarov’s arrest extended until February 6.
When Gaskarov spoke to the court arguing against his arrest, Chistyakov sat motionless, his hands folded in front of him, like a sphinx.
Alexei Gaskarov’s argument in the Basmanny District Court:
I do not agree with the extension of my arrest and wanted to draw attention to the following things. First, I am being charged with violating Articles 212 and 318. Article 318 belongs to the category of moderately severe crimes for which the period of pre-trial detention may not exceed six months. Article 212, which criminalizes “involvement in mass riots,” stipulates more stringent sanctions, up to a year in pre-trial detention. I have a copy of my indictment, dated April 28. As of today, there has been no other indictment. According to this indictment, all the [criminal] actions that the investigator has just listed were then deemed violations of Article 318 by him.
Since the extension the investigator is now requesting means that I will have spent nine months in detention, that is, more than the statutory period of six months, I do not agree with this extension.
With regard to Article 212, I would like to return to the question of the grounds for charging me with violating it. Because even if you go by my indictment in the case file, it turns out I am accused of participation in mass riots. However, if you look at Article 212 itself, it covers mass riots “attended by violence, pogroms, arson, the destruction of property, the use of firearms, explosives, or explosive devices, and also armed resistance to government representatives.”
There is also Article 8 of the Criminal Code, which clearly states that a deed can be deemed criminal if it is fully consistent with “all the elements” of a crime, as described in one or another article in the Code. Accordingly, not all the elements of the crime, as indicated in Article 212, are included in my indictment. The article does not say that only one element or half the elements are enough. “All the elements” must be present.
Furthermore, the investigation finds that there was violence, arsons, and pogroms there [on Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012], but I have not been charged with arson and pogroms. I have been charged only with violence against police officers. But Article 318 already covers these actions, and it is unclear how one and the same action can be deemed to constitute now one crime, now another.
On the other hand, if you look at the article dealing with mass riots, it does indeed say that resisting police officers is a constituent element of the crime, but there it stipulates that this must be armed resistance. But there is nothing in the charges brought against me indicating that I used a weapon or objects that could be used as a weapon.
I ask the court to take note of this indictment, because it serves as the grounds for the decision to extend or change the measures of restraint.
There are different sorts of evidence in the indictment and the criminal case file, but they only touch on Article 318, not Article 212. There is no clear indication there which of my actions could be deemed a violation of Article 212.
Moreover, why did we want to enter these photographs [of Gaskarov being beaten by riot police on May 6, 2012 — Russkaya Planeta] into the record? They simply indicate that the situation was quite complicated. The way the indictment is worded implies that if you see a uniformed police officer, he is absolutely within the law and cannot do anything illegal. By entering these photographs into the record, we want to show that the situation was complicated.
As for the actions committed there, I don’t even deny that I pulled one officer by the leg, and another by the arm. But only Article 318 covers all these actions. And so I ask the court not to extend [my arrest] for more than six months.
That is all I have to say.
* In Russia, men are subject to military conscription between the ages of eighteen and twenty-seven —Translator.