Their Day in Court

photo_2017-06-13_18-21-56
Detained protesters at a police precinct in Petersburg. Photo copyright Andrey Kalikh and courtesy of the Aid to Detainees Group in Petersburg and Fontanka.ru

This is not the first time (nor probably the last time) that activist Varya Mikkhaylova has been featured on this website.  Below, she and Andrey Kalikh describe their experiences in police custody and court after being detained by riot police along with 656 other protesters during an anti-corruption rally held on the Field of Mars in Petersburg on June 12, Russia Day. TRR

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Varya Mikhaylova
Facebook
June 14, 2017

Almost everyone in our precinct has had their court hearing and been convicted. Nearly everyone who tried to file appeals and not plead guilty was given the maximum sentence: up to fourteen days in jail + fines of 10,000 rubles and greater. Those who plead guilty and make no attempt to defend themselves get off easier: one of them got three days in jail. The only person in our precinct who got off without a jail term was the husband of a pregnant woman.

In this regard, everyone’s mood is dominated by legal nihilism. They have been chewing out the human rights activists, who they say have only made things worse. Apparently, that is the real objective of all these hearings.

By the by, there are truly random people among the detainees in our precinct, but they are more aggressive towards people like me than to the authorities. They give the protesters and human rights activists hell, and ask why we’re dissatisfied. (After thirty hours in police custody, there in other word for this than Stockholm syndrome.) [One person who commented on the original post, in Russian, suggested that these “random people” were, in fact, police provocateurs and spies. Planting them in the cells of political prisoners and dissidents had been a common practice under the Soviets—TRR.]

One of these random detainees is a lawyer. He came down on everyone harder than anyone else, saying we should withdraw our appeals and refuse legal assistance. What irony: he has a master’s degree in law.

Before they are sent to the detention center, the police forcibly take everyone’s fingerprints, although this is against the law.

We are in a decent precinct. The conditions are terribly unsanitary and crowded, but the staff treat us like human beings. They let us charge our telephones, let us have smoke breakes, and sometimes even take us to the can, where there is an actual toilet, not a stinky hole in the floor. On the other hand, among themselves they talk about how everyone who protested on the Field of Mars did it because they had been promised 5,000 rubles.

Yesterday, we spent the night in the cells. There were sixteen bodies and six beds, but we had mattresses, pillows, and bed linens even. Today, non-political prisoners were brought to the cells. (When one of them refused to remove his crucifix, four officers threw him on the floor, cuffed him, and forcibly removed the crucifix. Another of these prisoners is obviously in a bad way. He beats the walls, scratches the window until he bleeds, and screams. He wet himself in his cell, but no one has any intention of taking him to hospital.) So we spend the night sitting in the corridor.

Me and one other young man have still not been taken to court for our hearings.

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Andrey Kalikh
Facebook
Saint Petersburg, Russia
June 14, 2017

St. Petersburg’s Frunzensky District Court is the apotheosis of evil. The hearings began at eleven p.m. One, apparently very angry judge is handling the cases. Everyone is being sentenced to ten to fifteen days in jail, plus they are fined ten thousand to fifteen thousand rubles. We fearfully await the sentence he will give our friend the father with four children.

People are kept on the bus before the hearings. They are exhausted, the conditions are tortuous, and something has to be done about this court. It is monstrous.

UPDATE. Our dad with four children emerged from the courthouse at two in the morning. He had been fined 10,700 rubles [approx. 167 euros]. He said that of the 106 people who had been sentenced at that point, only six had got off with fines. Everyone else had been sentenced to five to fifteen days in jail, plus had been fined ten thousand to fifteen thousand rubles.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade SK and Andrey Kalikh for the heads-up

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