Prosecutor Requests Two Years in Open Penal Settlement for Khabarovsk Blogger Marchenko
September 28, 2015
Prosecutor Olesya Demina has asked Khabarovsk’s Industrial District Court to sentence blogger and LGBT activist Andrei Marchenko to two years in an open penal settlement, as reported by Grani.Ru’s correspondent from the courtroom. Marchenko has been accused of extremism for posts he made on Facebook.
During closing arguments, defense attorney Natalya Gladych drew the court’s attention to Marchenko’s positive character references, as well as the findings of a psychologist, who concluded that the defendant’s only purpose had been to draw attention to himself and to his position on the war in the east of Ukraine.
“Two years in an open penal settlement is an excessively severe punishment given that the evidence presented by the prosecution is insufficient. The prosecutor speaks of Marchenko as an out-and-out extremist, although the man was simply expressing his opinion. The harsh form in which he delivered it was due only to heightened emotionality,” said Gladych.
On Monday, the defendant was to make his closing statement, but Judge Galina Nikolayeva unexpectedly adjourned until Wednesday, September 30, when Marchenko will deliver his closing statement and the judge will return a verdict.
“I did not expect that the prosecution would request real prison time. There is not a single injured party in the case. There is only the one sentence on Facebook, which did not lead to any real consequences. And for this the representative of the state machine asks the court to sentence me to real prison time,” Marchenko commented to Grani.ru after the hearing.
Marchenko has pleaded not guilty and hopes for an acquittal.
On June 8, 2014, Trinity Sunday, Marchenko published a post on Facebook dealing with the events in the east of Ukraine.
“Impale all the terrorists!!!!!!!!” he wrote. “Kill all of them!! Blood Sunday! Free Ukraine from the fascist Russian terrorists on Trinity Sunday!”
The post was made visible only to Marchenko’s friends in the social network. Nevertheless, it was this publication that led to the blogger’s prosecution.
On August 28, 2014, FSB officers carried out a search at Marchenko’s home during which they seized all his office equipment and mobile phones. The following day, the blogger was charged at regional FSB headquarters under Article 280, Part 1 of the Criminal Code (public incitement to extremism)
A week before the raid, the blogger had also been summoned to regional FSB headquarters. There he was shown screenshots of a certain site according to which Marchenko and another Khabarovsk LGBT activist, Alexander Yermoshkin, were the founders and masterminds of a “gay terrorist underground” that were pursuing the goal of organizing an “orange revolution” in Khabarovsk. As Marchenko noted, the FSB investigator was “utterly serious.” Marchenko was then asked why he did not like “Novorossiya.” He was told that his numerous posts in support of Ukraine and criticizing the Kremlin were the reason for the FSB’s concern.
On September 11, 2014, another five phrases from Marchenko’s summertime posts were sent off for forensic examination.
“Including phrases in support of Poroshenko and phrases about the fact that prices are higher but Crimea is ours,” wrote the blogger.
Two weeks later, it transpired that Rosfinmonitoring had placed Marchenko on its list of terrorists and extremists. However, the blogger kept his bank accounts only for withdrawing money he earned through official freelance bureaus from the WebMoney system. For many years, these earnings had been Marchenko’s only source of income. Thus, Rosfinmonitoring’s decision left the activist penniless.
“Now I don’t even have money for groceries,” wrote Marchenko.
The blogger expressed bewilderment at his inclusion in the list, noting that the court had not yet deemed him either a terrorist or an extremist.
On December 30, 2014, final charges were filed against Marchenko.
Translated by the Russian Reader
NB. Grani.Ru, the opposition news and commentary website that published this article about Andrei Marchenko’s plight is itself banned in Russia as “extremist” and can only be viewed there through VPNs, anonymizers, and mirror sites.
Update. According to an article on the news website Vostok-Media, on October 1, 2015, the Industrial District Court in Khabarovsk found Andrei Marchenko guilty as charged and sentenced him to a fine of 100,000 rubles, but immediately amnestied him as part of a general amnesty celebrating the seventieth anniversary of victory in the Second World War.