Valery Brinikh: A Surprise Witness

George Orwell, writer: "The further a society drifts from the truth the more it will hate those who speak it."
“George Orwell, writer: ‘The further a society drifts from the truth the more it will hate those who speak it.'” Image from Valery Brinikh’s Facebook page

Valery Brinikh
Facebook
June 25, 2016

Hello!

The latest hearing in my criminal trial took place on June 24, but it was no run-of-the-mill hearing. When, last week, the court turned down defense attorney Andrei Sabinin’s motion to examine a linguistics expert from the beautiful beyond via videoconferencing (although, literally right before this, two prosecution witnesses from Krasnodar had been examined in this manner), neither the prosecutors nor the judge suspected that soon they would have the honor of gazing at this linguistics expert in person. We provided them with this pleasure.

The linguistics expert smashed the so-called findings of official state expert Sergei Fedyayev to smithereens. She immediately pointed out that Fedyayev had violated the fundamental methodological principles of forensic examinations for identifying signs of extremism. First, such forensic examinations should be comprehensive, involving not only a linguist but also a psychologist and, better yet, a sociologist or political scientist (if social groups are at issue). By definition, a linguist cannot cope with all these tasks alone. Nor did linguistic expert Fedyayev cope with his task. His analysis of the article “The Silence of the Lambs” skids on the sharp turns like a Volga car. Hence the large number of mistakes and simple linguistic blunders he made, producing findings that were not only at odds with the principles of linguistics but also with common sense.

During her testimony, our expert pointed to a number of instances where Fedyayev clearly went beyond his competence as a linguist by giving legal evaluations of individual passages in “The Silence of the Lambs” and thus infringing on the court’s realm of responsibility. In addition, his findings contain a definition of the concept of a “group,” something only a sociologist or political scientist is competent to define. The Russian Supreme Court has directly ruled it is inadmissible to define the authorities (state officials) as a “social group.” But what does the Russian Supreme Court mean to Fedyayev when the Adygea Supreme Court is dealing the cards? Fedyayev’s analysis also contains probabilistic conclusions (i.e., dealing with the realm of possibility), which are inadmissible in a linguistic forensic examination.

Apologizing to the judge for infringing on legal issues, our expert noted that the article does not oppose one group to another, one nation to another, and that there is no evidence of incitement to enmity and hatred on ethnic and other grounds in the text.

Our expert also testified that lexical-semantic and lexical-stylistic methods should be used in analyzing the text, while the huge number of other methods listed by Fedyayev either were not employed or were superfluous. In particular, by not using conceptual analysis, Fedyayev was led to erroneous conclusions.

The overall conclusion of the linguistics expert we called to the stand in Maykop City Court yesterday was that the article “The Silence of the Lambs” was highly critical and chockablock with negative assessments of the authorities and the hog breeding business, but there was nothing in the article that could interpreted as inciting enmity and hatred. In particular, she pointed out to the court that the words “Adyghe” and “Adygean” are encountered in different contexts in the article, testifying to the fact that the author distinguishes between the notions, using them in the article to denote different things. While the word “Adyghe” clearly refers to an ethnicity, “Adygean” has several meanings, one of them being a resident of Adygea, without reference to his or her ethnicity, as in krasnodarets, sochinets, stavropolets, and so on. [That is, the Russian terms for residents of Krasnodar, Sochi, and Stavropol, respectively.—TRR.]

What mattered to me was our expert’s answer to the question of whether it was possible, having received an unfamiliar text in the morning, to carry out a forensic examination of it by the evening of the same day and discover grounds for suspecting the text of extremism by using linguistic methods. My question was prompted by the fact that on September 15, 2014, Fedyayev, at the request of the FSB’s regional office in the Republic of Adygea, conducted a linguistic examination of the article “The Silence of the Lambs” in ten hours, and his memorandum to this effect (not even an expert opinion) was the grounds for the Maykop City Court (Judge Irina Ramazanova, presiding) ruling that the article was extremist. Later, on the basis of the very same memorandum, whipped up in a single workday, the very same Fedyayev wrote up the expert findings that served as the basis for my indictment on criminal charges.

The conclusion of the expert we called to the stand was unequivocal: it would be impossible. Sometimes, explained the expert, who is a past master at linguistic and comprehensive forensic examinations, analysis of a single sentence might take three hours. So, personally, she takes two weeks to perform such examinations.

In general, the testimony or, rather, the lecture by the linguistics expert we called to the stand was so thorough that neither the judge nor the prosecutors could think of anything substantive to ask her. Thus, by presenting critical reviews of Fedyayev’s forensic examination, we have drawn a thick line under it, making it completely impossible for it to be used as evidence for the prosecution in the criminal case against me.

The next hearing has been scheduled for 2:15 p.m. on July 4. Most likely, we will file a motion to have the forensic examination redone, asking this time for a comprehensive, rather than linguistic, examination.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Please read my previous posts on the extremism case against Adygean environmentalist Valery Brinikh.

Image courtesy of Twitter
Image courtesy of Twitter
Advertisements

Valery Brinikh: Report from His Extremism Trial

The extremism trial against environmentalist Valery Brinikh in session. Maykop City Court, June 17, 2016
The extremism trial against environmentalist Valery Brinikh in session. Maykop City Court, June 17, 2016

Valery Brinikh
Facebook
June 18, 2016

Hello!

The latest hearing in my criminal case took place in Maykop from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 17 of this year. This time, the prosecution’s last two witnesses were finally questioned, albeit by a videoconference link with the Soviet District Court in Krasnodar. Vyacheslav Potapov and Vitaly Isayenko were supposed to answer questions about the operations of the website For Krasnodar, on which the article “The Silence of the Lambs” was posted.

It seemed to me that Sergei Shvetsov, senior deputy prosecutor of the Republic of Adygea, was not prepared to examine the witnesses today and the questions he asked them sounded like childish prattle. Even the judge noted this and advised the public prosecutor to concentrate. Ultimately, however, the second public prosecutor, Inessa Orlova from the Maykop City Prosecutor’s Office, took the microphone from Shvetsov and asked the witnesses specific questions.

I was personally interested in Isayenko’s responses to two sets of questions, first, about the circumstances of his interrogation on December 12, 2014. On that day, after the search [at his house], he was brought from Krasnodar to Maykop and interrogated until evening. It was night when they sent him back home to Krasnodar. As Isayenko, who suffers from Type 1 Diabetes, explained, he spent almost half a day at the Republic of Adygea Investigation Department with no food and, much more dangerously, with no insulin. They gave him only water. And yet they interrogated him intensively, trying to squeeze testimony against me and Vyacheslav Potapov, editor of the website For Krasnodar, from him. I was being interrogated in the next room, and I could hear Senior Investigator Kirill Kustov screaming at him. The stress he underwent and the long period he endured without food and insulin landed Vitaly Isayenko in the hospital the day after his return from Maykop. His diabetes flared up and he suffered from other ailments.

I was also interested in Isayenko’s comments, as a computer specialist, on certain statements in the inspection report on the computers seized at Isayenko’s house, an inspection carried out by Senior Investigator Kustov on the night of December 12, 2014. In particular, the report states that three processors were discovered in one of the computers. Isayenko explained there had been only one processor in the computer. He did not know nothing about any other processors.

In general, the witnesses said nothing new. They only confirmed what was already contained in the minutes of their interrogations.

Valery Brinink (left) and his attorney,
Valery Brinink (left) and his attorney, Andrei Sabinin. Maykop City Court, June 17, 2016

After the witnesses were examined, my attorney, Andrei Sabinin, attempted to request that Elizaveta Koltunova, a linguist from Nizhny Novgorod, be examined via videoconference, but the prosecutors objected, and Judge Vitaly Galagan did their bidding. Our request to examine the linguist by videoconferencing was rejected. According to the defense, this stance on the part of the prosecution and the court contradicts the adversarial nature of judicial proceedings and the principle of the equality of arms.

Much more unexpected and even amusing was the procedural action, which took place after lunch, of obtaining handwriting samples and a signature from prosecution witness Mugdin Mossovich Guchetl, a resident of the village of Gabukay. Everything would have been alright if the witness had simply produced his signature in silence, but instead he recalled another circumstance that I think gave the prosecutors a slight shock. Guchetl recalled that in February of last year, when Investigator A.S. Rudenko of the Investigative Department of the Republican Investigative Committee’s Teuchezsky District office took Guchetl’s written testimony, he asked him to sign blank sheets of paper, because, as Rudenko explained, allegedly, he would later type out Guchetl’s handwritten testimony on the computer, but he needed the signatures right away so he would not have to make a return trip to Adygeisk.

The investigator thus clearly violated the procedure for processing interrogation reports, a procedure strictly regulated by criminal procedural laws. At the same time, the investigator committed forgery by inserting things Guchetl did not say into the report. Today, after reading the interrogation report, which is part of the criminal case file, Guchetl categorically stated he did not say to the investigator what was written in the penultimate paragraph of his printed testimony, which reads as follows: “I want to clarify that I strongly disagree with the contents of the article entitled ‘The Silence of the Lambs,’ because I think the article has defamed my honor and dignity as an Adyghe, as well as insulting all Muslims. The article compares us to pigs and cowards, and claims we have no sense of self-esteem.”

Basically, it was for the sake of this passage that the investigator obtained Guchetl’s testimony. In fact, the investigator could have written something even rougher on Guchetl’s behalf, because he already his signatures on blank interrogation report forms.

Finally, I made a motion to rule the Teuchezhsky District Council an illegitimate injured party in my case, since it did not satisfy the grounds set out in Article 42 of the Russian Federal Criminal Procedure Code. When the prosecutors objected as usual, spouting platitudes about the proper recognition of the local authorities as an injured party, we demanded the prosecution present legal grounds for its stance. We were quite curious to find out how exactly the district council had been injured, if, as they themselves have said, the article had caused moral injury to the residents of the Teuchezhsky District.

The prosecutors drew a blank and requested a time-out until the next hearing, at which they promised to provide a written justification for their objection. That suited us just fine, as it did the judge, who postponed consideration of our motion until next time.

The next court hearing is scheduled for June 24.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Photos courtesy of Valery Brinikh. Please read my previous posts on his case.

Prosecution Witness in Brinikh Case Recants

Valery Brinikh

Prosecution Witness in Brinikh Case Recants
Grani.ru
March 24, 2016

77-year-old Mugdin Guchetl, a witness for the prosecution in the extremist case against environmentalist Valery Brinikh, recanted from the testimony identified as his in the case file during a court hearing in Maykop City Court in Adygea, as reported by the international human rights group Agora, who cited Brinikh’s defense attorney Alexander Popkov.

In testimony signed “Guchetl,” given during the investigation, it states that Brinikh has insulted not only the witness but the entire Adyghe people with his article “The Silence of the Lambs.” During the trial, however, the witness said he had not read the article, that he had not been in Adygeisk for around five years (although according to the interrogation report he was questioned in Adygeisk), that he had not given testimony to a police investigator, and that he had not signed the interrogation report.

Presiding Judge Vitaly Galagan pressed Guchetl, telling him that if he did not acknowledge his own signature, he would be summoned to court again. The defense protested the judge’s actions and filed a motion for a handwriting analysis to be performed.

The article “The Silence of the Lambs” was published on the website For Krasnodar! in September 2014. It recounts the environmental problems caused by Kievo-Zhuraki Agribusiness JSC, a large pig-breeding facility in Adygea’s Teuchezhsk District. The company was founded by Vyacheslav Derev, Karachay-Cherkessia’s representative in the Federation Council.

The article contains the following passage: “But who or what has forced the Adyghe to breathe manure-polluted air and swim in ponds poisoned by sewage? Nothing but cowardice and a lack of self-esteem.”

On December 17, 2014, Maykop City Court ruled that “The Silence of the Lambs” was extremist. On March 20, 2015, the Adygea Supreme Court reaffirmed the lower court’s decision. In their rulings, the courts claimed the author of the article had insulted ethnic Adyghe, accusing them of cowardice. On January 12, 2016, Brinikh submitted a written petition to Maykop City Court asking it to reexamine its ruling in the light of new circumstances, but on January 21, Judge Irina Ramazanov refused to consider the petition.

The environmentalist had been charged under Articles 33.5 and 282.1 of the Criminal Code (complicity in inciting hatred and enmity) as he was accused of having help to disseminate the article. Subsequently, Major Konstantin Kustov, senior major case investigator at the regional headquarters of the Russian Federal Investigative Committee, recharged the environmentalist, removing Article 33.5 from the charges and accusing the biologist of having authored “The Silence of the Lambs.”

Defense attorney Popkov has noted that over the past year the Investigative Committee has ordered five forensic examinations in the case. However, the lawyer stressed that data from a wiretap of Brinikh’s telephone, conducted by the Federal Security Service (FSB) a few months before “The Silence of the Lambs” was published, has been subjected to a phonological forensic analysis.

Hearing of the case on the merits began on January 26, 2016. Popkov had insisted on sending the case back to the prosecutor’s office, pointing out that a number of pieces of evidence had been falsified, but Judge Galagan rejected his appeal.

During the February 9 hearing of the case, one of the ethnic Adyghes who was questioned refuted the charges against the defendant.

“The environmentalist’s article caused no enmity,” he said. “On the contrary, Brinikh has help the Adyghes fight for the environment.”

Translated by the Russian Reader. Photo courtesy of 8772.ru. See my previous posts on Valery Brinikh and the case against him.

Soldiers Who Refused to Go to Donbass Sentenced to Prison

Maykop Contract Soldiers Who Refused to Go to Donbass Sentenced to Prison
Yevgeny Titov
October 13, 2015
Novaya Gazeta

Contract solders from Military Unit No. 22179, located in Maykop, have been sentenced to prison terms. Anatoly Kudrin has been sentenced to six months in an open penal settlement, while Alexander Yevenko, Ivan Shevkunov, Alexander Yenenko, and Pavel Tynchenko received one year each. Alexander Yenenko, who communicated most actively with the press, got the longest sentence [sic].

“It is disgusting,” says Svetlana Kimnatnaya, Ivan Shevkunov’s mother. “All the character references were positive, tons of peoples vouched for my son, and many people from the unit supported him. We had been hoping for probation.”

In autumn 2014, soldiers from Military Unit No. 22179 in Maykop were transferred to the Kadamovsky Firing Range in Rostov Region [eighty kilometers from the Ukrainian border]. Subsequently, contract soldiers left the range in large numbers. Many filed letters of resignation, which were not given due consideration by the unit’s commanding officers. The contract soldiers complained of poor living conditions and feared they would be sent to fight in Ukraine.

Regarding the conditions of their military service, the contract soldiers said they had been forced to sleep on boards, and there had often been no electricity and proper food. The topic of Ukraine had surfaced because separatists from the Donetsk People’s Republic were encamped near the Kadamovsky Firing Range. According to the soldiers’ parents, the separatists had agitated among the soldiers, offering them money to go fight in Donbass.

Subsequently, a group of soldiers was charged under Article 337.4 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (absence without leave for over a month). It later transpired that among other things they had not been paid the money due to them for temporary duty travel. One of the men, Alexander Yevenko, a veteran of the conflict in Chechnya, was ultimately paid thirty thousand rubles.

Alexander Yevenko
Alexander Yevenko

During the course of the investigation, another soldier, Alexander Yenenko, repeatedly informed Novaya Gazeta about illegal investigative methods, the use of psychological coercion, and threats. To verify this information, Novaya Gazeta sent a request to the Chief Military Investigation Department of the Russian Federal Investigative Committee. According to their reply, they cannot comment on the matter.

Alexander Yanenko
Alexander Yanenko

Alexander Yevenko (not to be confused with Alexander Yenenko) has said he intends to appeal the decision of the Maykop Garrison Military Court. The appeals hearing in his case will take place October 22 in the North Caucasus District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Photos by Yevgeny Titov. See his previous article on this conflict, “Why Are Maykop Contract Soldiers Resigning?” from the July 15, 2015, issue of Novaya Gazeta (in Russian). See also “Prison terms for Russian contract soldiers who refused to fight in Donbas,” Belsat TV, October 14, 2015 (in English).