Friday, April 07, 2006

Stalin and Us

On April 1, the Washington Post published an opinion editorial by Anna Politkovskaya entitled "Stalinism Forever", in which she wrote about the hundreds of cases involving alleged Islamic terrorism which are currently passing through Russia's courts. This is a subject that is now forbidden in the Russian press and media, and Politkovskaya gave this as her reason for publishing her article in a U.S. newspaper. She stated that most of the "Islamic terrorism" cases "have been fabricated by the government so that the special services can demonstrate how ‘effective' Russia is in fighting terrorism and so that President Vladimir Putin has something with which to impress the West."

Politkovskaya focused on the case of two Grozny college students, Musa Lomayev and Mikhail Vladovskikh, who were accused by the police and the prosecutor's office of "all small, previously unsolved acts of terrorism" that had occurred about six months before in a district of Grozny, and described the treatment they received at the hands of the police and special services:

As a result, Vladovskikh is now severely disabled: Both his legs were broken under torture; his kneecaps were shattered; his kidneys badly damaged by beating; his genitalia mutilated; his eyesight lost; his eardrums torn; and all of his front teeth sawed off," Politkovskaya wrote. "That is how he appeared before the court. To get Lomayev to sign - and he did sign confessions for five acts of terrorism—they inserted electrical wires in his anus and applied current. He would lose consciousness, and they would pour water on him, show him the wires again, turn him around backward—and he would sign confessions that he belonged to a gang with Vladovskikh. This despite the fact that the two defendants were first introduced to one another by their prison torturers.
A former neighbour of the Vladovskikh family, Muslim Chudalov, was also implicated in the alleged terrorism.
Within 48 hours of being jailed, he produced confessions to 15 crimes, after which the torturers dragged him as a witness to testify at the Lomayev-Vladovskikh trial. The left side of his face was burned, his arms and legs were swollen, and he had bruises and bloodstains all over his body. He could neither walk nor stand—security personnel had to carry him in. Responding to the prosecutor's demand, his tongue faltering, Chudalov confirmed all of his testimony against Lomayev and Vladovskikh. And certainly against himself.
Politkovskaya writes that
The plight of those sentenced for "Islamic terrorism" today is the same as that of the political prisoners of the Gulag Archipelago. They receive long terms -- 18 to 25 years in strict security camps in Siberian swamps and woods, with virtually all communication with the outside forbidden. Even the Red Cross is not admitted.

Russia continues to be infected by Stalinism. But it seems to me that the rest of the world has been infected along with it, a world shrunken and frightened before the threat of terrorism. I recall the words of one torture victim at his trial: "What will become of me? How will I be able to live in this country if you sentence me to such a long prison term for a crime that I did not commit, and without any proof of my guilt?"

He never received an answer to his question. Indeed, what will become of all the rest of us, who tolerate this? What has become of us already?

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