Prosecutor Asks for Life in Prison for Four Defendants in Petersburg Show Trial

KMO_158163_00033_1Shohista Karimova. Photo courtesy of Fontanka.ru

Court Asked to Sentence Some Defendants in Petersburg Subway Bombing Case to Life in Prison
Mediazona
November 18, 2019

The prosecutor has asked the court to sentence some of the defendants in the 2017 Petersburg subway bombing case to life in prison, our correspondent has reported from the courtroom.

The prosecutor [Nadezhda Tikhonova] asked the court to sentence Akram Azimov, Abror Azimov, Ibrahimjon Ermatov, and Muhamadusup Ermatov to life imprisonment in a high-security penal colony and fines of one million rubles [approximately 14,000 euros] each. She asked the court to sentence Sodik Ortikov to 28 years in a maximum-security penal colony and a fine of one million rubles. She requested sentences of 27 years in a maxium-security penal colony and fines of one million rubles each for Mahamadusuf Mirzaalimov, Azamjon Mahmudov, Seifulla Hakimov, Bahrom Ergashev, and Dilmurod Muidinov.

Defendant Shohista Karimova had a nervous breakdown during the hearing, which led to a thirty-minute recess. After the recess, Karimova refused to return to the courtroom, screaming and resisting attempts to make her move. Consequently, the hearing was postponed until tomorrow.

Convening in Petersburg, the Moscow District Military Court began hearing the case on April 2, 2019. All the defendants pleaded not guilty, and four of them said they had been brutally tortured. On April 17, 2017, an explosion occurred on a subway train traveling between the stations Sennaya Ploshchad and Tekhnologichesky Institut. Sixteen people were killed, and another fifty [sic] people were injured.

_______________________________________

Yana Teplitskaya
Facebook
November 18, 2019

Today, the state prosecutor announced her wishes in the Petersburg subway bombing case: life imprisonment for four of the defendants (the Azimov brothers and the Ermatov brothers), and between 27 and 28 years in prison for all the other defendants, except Shohista Karimova. (The prosecutor will request a sentence for her tomorrow.)

And she asked that all the defendants be fined a million rubles each.

Most likely, the sentences handed down by the court will not differ greatly from the prosecution’s wishes. (Maybe the more uproar there is now, the greater the difference will be.)

Most likely, the verdict will be upheld on appeal.

Most likely, someday this case (like hundreds of others) will be reviewed, and the convicted defendants exonerated.

I’d like to live to see the day when that happens. And for the accused and their loved ones to live to see it, too.

http://3apr2017.tilda.ws/#court

Translated by the Russian Reader. Please read my previous posts on the terrorist attack, the case against its alleged planners, its roots in the Islamophobia that has infected Russia under Putin, and the shocking lack of local and international solidarity with the thirteen defendants in the case:

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A “Political Hit Job” in Petersburg

vishnevskyBoris Vishnevsky. Photo courtesy of Deutsche Welle

Petersburg City Councilman Boris Vishnevsky Accuses Prigozhin Media of Slander
Deutsche Welle
November 14, 2019

On Friday, November 14, Boris Vishnevsky, a Yabloko Party deputy in the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly, filed a complaint with the Primorsky District Internal Affairs Department, requesting it open a criminal slander investigation into articles published by Patriot media holding company, whose board of trustees is headed by businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, as reported by Vishnevsky himself on his Facebook page.

Novaya Gazeta has reported that, beginning on November 7, Patriot’s media outlets have been running stories claiming that, in his capacity as a professor at the Herzen Russian State Pedagogical University (RGPU), Vishnevsky had sexually harassed first-year female students.

The basis of the charges is, allegedly, an email from a young woman named Kristina, who identified herself as an RGPU alumna and claimed Vishensky harassed her and other female first-year students in 2014.

On November 12, the national TV channel Rossiya 24 told viewers there had been “widespread complaints” against Vishnevsky, and students had been holding solo pickets against him outside the Legislative Assembly.

Meanwhile, RGPU has issued a press release. It stated there were no first-year students named Kristina enrolled at the university in 2014, Vishnevsky had never taught courses to first-year students there, and no allegations of sexual harassment had ever been made against him.

Vishnevsky has called the scandal an obvious “political hit job.”

“This is the regime’s revenge for my political activities and political stance, for exposing fraud involving the city budget and utilities rates, for fighting to save the city, for defending political prisoners, and for Yabloko’s victories in the municipal district council elections in the Central District,” he wrote.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Side by Side 2019: International LGBT Solidarity vs. Bomb Threats

IMG_9987The crowd at the opening of the Twelfth Side by Side International LGBT Film Festival in Petersburg, 14 November 2019. Photo courtesy of Side by Side

Press Release, 15 November 2019

The Twelfth Side by Side International LGBT Film Festival opened in Petersburg on November 14 despite stubborn attempts by ill-wishers to disrupt it. At 7:00 p.m. on the dot, right at the moment when the festival’s opening ceremony was set to begin, the festival venue, the Sokos Hotel on Birzhevoy Pereulok, received an anonymous phone call about a bomb or other explosive device that had, allegedly, been planted in the building. The numerous people who had come to the festival were evacuated from the building along with the hotel’s guests. For nearly two hours, police and Emergency Ministry officers checked the hotel. Of course, the “warning” proved to be deliberately false.

Despite these criminal attempts to disrupt it, the Twelfth Side by Side Festival began with a necessarily brief but emotionally charged opening ceremony during which the audience was addressed by the festival’s partners and jury, as well as a guest of the festival, Belgian filmmaker Marianne Lambert, whose documentary film I Don’t Belong Anywhere: The Cinema of Chantal Akerman will be shown on November 15.

“What I have seen has reaffirmed for me that this is the place where we need to fight for our rights,” Lambert said.

The opening film was the Brazilian drama Hard Paint, which won the Teddy Award as the best LGBTQ-themed feature film at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival. Before the screening, film critic Ksenia Reutova said many interesting things about the film’s co-directors, Filipe Matzembacher and Marcio Reolon, as well as filling in this stunning picture’s context for the audience, telling them about the special, unenviable position of Porto Alegre, the setting of the film and the filmmakers’ hometown, and the recent conservative turn in Brazilian politics, which is very similar to what has been happening in our country.

The first day of the Twelfth Side by Side Festival was marked by a fighting spirit and an atmosphere of solidarity. The festival will run for another seven days, featuring a wide-ranging program of documentaries, features, and short films, as well as appearances by special guests from Russia and abroad, and discussions about transgender people, transgender parents, LGBT in big-time sports, non-binary people, and the victories and shortcomings of the LGBT movement in Russia and worldwide.

The opening day of the festival

Festival Schedule

Side by Side on Social Media:

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Translated by Thomas Campbell. Thanks to Gulya Sultanova and Side by Side for the press release, photograph, and their indomitable spirit.

The War on Academic Free Speech in Russia

snowden

Why Should Professors Have Free Speech?
Pavel Aptekar
Vedomosti
November 10, 2019

The desire of certain universities to control the things the public intellectuals they employ as professors say about socially important issues teeters on the verge of censorship and can hardly benefit their reputations, demonstrating only the growing fears of their administrators.

On Friday, the Higher School of Economics made public the decision of its ethics board, which voted seven to one in favor of recommending that Gasan Gusejnov, a linguist employed in the university’s humanities faculty, apologize for his “ill-considered and irresponsible” remarks on his personal Facebook page regarding the “cesspool-like” Russian used by the Russian media. The majority of council members found the statement had caused “serious harm” to the university’s “professional reputation.”

In particular, the ethics board referred to recommendations for university staff members regarding public statements: “If the public statements of employees touch on issues that are matters of considerable public controversy […] it is recommended they refrain from mentioning the university by name.”

However, Gusejnov did not mention his position at the university in the Facebook post that sparked a witch hunt against him on social media and in pro-Kremlin media outlets. Gusejnov said he did not intend to apologize, as he had not yet received an official request to apologize from the university. This triggered a new wave of invective against him.

The persecution of university lecturers and students for political reasons cannot be called something new. In March 2014, MGIMO terminated its contract with Professor Andrey Zubov after his statements about the situation in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. In April 2015, the Smolny Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences at St. Petersburg State University fired political scientist and human rights expert Dmitry Dubrovsky for his public remarks. In November 2016, Alexei Petrov was fired from his post as deputy dean of the history faculty at Irkutsk State University, allegedly, for disciplinary violations, but it was actually a complaint to the prosecutor’s office by a member of the National Liberation Movement (NOD) that led to his dismissal. In March 2018, the Siberian Federal University in Krasnoyarsk forced philosophy lecturer Mikhail Konstantinov to resign after he had shown students Don’t Call Him Dimon, a 2017 video exposé by Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation.

The right to one’s opinions, even critical opinions, cannot be made dependent on a person’s job. Even with regard to civil servants, the Russian Constitutional Court ruled that their official positions could not be tantamount to a total ban on the public expression of critical opinions, including in the media. It is all the more impossible to train and educate professionals without critical thinking, free discussion, and the exchange of opinions: without these things, learning turns into scholasticism. Lecturers capable of lively, unconventional thought make the reputations of universities.

There have been other such examples in the history of the Higher School of Economics. The university did not react when, in October 2013, Vladimir Putin called Professor Sergei Medvedev a “fool” for arguing that the Arctic should be administered internationally. Now, however, its administrators have probably been forced to yield to the pressure, hoping that by sacrificing individuals it can maintain control over its professors. But this is a precarious path to a questionable goal.

Image courtesy of democraticunderground.com. Translated by the Russian Reader

“If I Shot Four of Them, the Rest Would Calm Down”

olonets-golosinfo.org-runaWelcome to Olonets. Photo courtesy of Infogolos.org and Runa

“If I Shot Four People, the Rest Would Calm Down”: Official in Karelia Suggests Shooting People Who Complain About Problems
Ksenia Ufimtseva
Znak
November 8, 2019

In Karelia, Sergei Prokopiev, head of the Olonets Municipal District, suggested shooting people who complain to the authorities about unresolved problems. In his opinion, such shootings would help “calm” the populace.

Citing eyewitnesses, the Karelian news website Chernika reports that tempers flared during a meeting of the Olonets Town Council. It all kicked off when the local veterans association asked Prokopiev to clean up a mass grave. Raising his voice, Prokopiev said that people in other districts formed local public councils and solicited additional funds, whereas there were no such precedents in Olonets. According to Chernika, Prokopiev said that “social parasites” had become “entrenched” in the town.

The council then went on to discuss problems the authorities had not resolved for many years. In Olonets, the public bathhouse is shut down, and the town’s water drainage system does not work. The issues prompted a stormy discussion.

“If I had a license, I would shot four people, and the rest would calm down,” Prokopiev said at the end of the meeting.

One of the town council members present at the meeting politely inquired about the names of the four people Prokopiev would like to shoot as an example to others. Prokopiev assured the council member that no council members were among the group. Prokopiev then said, allegedly, that his remarks had been a joke.

Olonets residents have taken offense, however. Town council member Nina Shcherbakova sent a complaint about Prokopiev’s behavior to Karelian Governor Arthur Parfenchikov. Local grassroots activist Natalya Antonov also filed a complaint against the district head with the prosecutor’s office. She considered Prokopiev’s remarks a threat aimed at her. According to local news website Runa, she had previously criticized Prokopiev for his poor performance.

Roine Izyumov, head of the Karelian branch of the party A Just Russia, said there witnesses who had heard Prokopiev’s remarks.

“It appears Mr. Prokopiev has forgotten who pays his bills, whose taxes pay his salary. He has decided to shoot his breadwinners,” said Izyumov, as quoted by the news website KarelInform.

Izyumov argues that Prokopiev should be fired and subsequently banned from senior political posts.

According to MK Karelia, however, media reports of the incident are misleading. A town council member who was at the meeting but whose names is not mentioned in other reports said journalists did not interview her.

Thanks to Andrey Pivovarov for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Weaponizing Russian: The Gasan Gusejnov Controversy

guseynovGasan Gusejnov. Photo courtesy of Radio Svoboda

Gasan Gusejnov Refuses to Apologize for Remarks About Russian Language
Radio Svoboda
November 8, 2019

Gasan Gusejnov, a lecturer at the Higher School of Economics, has refused to apologize publicly for a post on Facebook in which he called the Russian language “miserable” and “cesspool-like.” According to Gazeta.Ru, the professor believes it would not be ethical for him to respond to the decision of a university commission, which had advised him to apologize.

The ethics commission at the Higher School of Economics recommended the professor apologize for his remarks. They were “ill-considered and irresponsible,” said the commission, which also claimed they had harmed the university’s reputation.

Gusejnov, in turn, told journalists he already given university administrators all necessary explanations and had no plans to apologize to anyone. He stressed that he had written the post as a private individual and had not yet received any official demands from the university.

A lecturer in the humanities faculty and a doctor of philology, Gusejnov published his post on Facebook in late October.

“In Moscow, with its hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians and Tatars, Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, Chinese and Germans, it is utterly impossible to find anything in other languages, except for the miserable, cesspool-like Russian that this country now speaks and writes,” he wrote.

Gusejnov’s post sparked a controversy on social media and in the media. Facebook deleted his post for violating its rules. The professor himself later explained that he had meant the language of hatred and aggression used in the media, social networks, and opinion journalism. According to Gusejnov, it was “an extremely dangerous environment and an extremely dangerous tool.”

This week, as the public debate about Gusejnov’s remarks continued, Vladimir Putin spoke at a meeting of the Russian Language Council. According to the Russian president, war had been declared on the Russian language worldwide in order to reduce its space [sic]. As Putin said, this was being done by “boorish Russophobes,” “fringe groups,” and “aggressive nationalists.”

The president did not specify what threats he had in mind. But he did instruct the government to amend the current laws “On the State Language” and “On the Languages of the Peoples of Russia” and create a “single corpus of dictionaries and reference books” that would dictate how all government entities used the language. Putin did not mention Gusejnov in his remarks.

Thanks to Dmitry Kalugin for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader