Thursday, January 25, 2007

Conversation - V


“When the case was brought to court, the first judge granted Sasha bail. That was the second shock for Sasha - even more of a shock than the arrest itself. His lawyer arrived, said: ‘Here are the bail papers from the judge, you can go home now.’ But at the prison they started to say that the bail papers should not be brought by a lawyer, but officially from the law court, so then there was a second delay, a third. And Sasha was already sitting there with his belongings: all he had to do was get through the door, and he would be free, we were out there waiting for him. He’d already handed in all the things from his cell. Then they said: ‘We can’t let him out, there’s been a fax from the prosecutor’s office.’ We sat there from 10am until midnight, and they didn’t let him out. They acted completely against the law. Later it came to light that he’d been kept in prison unlawfully for three or four weeks. That’s what it’s like trying to obtain justice in a Russian law court.

“The trial itself was unspeakable. The witnesses and materials were terrible, the prosecutor was constantly ill. When the lawyers told him that the outcome of the case was obvious, he said without embarrassment: ‘But I’m still on the waiting list for an apartment.’

“I am grateful to the judges of the Moscow Garrison Court who showed themselves to be honest people, and they acquitted him - and then all were set free. When the acquittal was read out it was unreal, like at the movies. It was clear that something was going to happen, all the prosecuting attorneys from the military prosecutor’s office were sitting there. At the time, Sasha was astonished that they had arrived: ‘Are they going to apologize to me or something?’ But as soon as the verdict had been read out, Spetsnaz officers burst into the courtroom, the prosecutor, Ivanov, got to his feet, announced that a new criminal case had been opened on Sasha, Sasha was immediately arrested, together with a second suspect - it was Gusak - and later we discovered that they had been sent to Butyrka Prison….

“Some completely new qualities revealed themselves in me then - they wouldn’t let me have any meetings with him, but I was able to phone a higher official in the State Prosecutor’s Office and began to plug the question of rights: ‘What right do you have to deprive me of meetings?’ I even kept calling the prison governor - at that moment there really were no obstacles for me - until I got permission for meetings. And later there was the change in the law regarding the treatment of the accused.

“When we got there, it was evident that in the court they were trying to make sure that wouldn’t be a repeat of what had happened last time. A group of guards stood there, so that, God forbid, no Spetsnaz should burst in again, the court was being defended from the FSB, you should have seen it. And when the judge took the decision to free Sasha from his guards, we couldn’t believe it. We grabbed him in our arms and drove him away, because we were simply scared.”

(to be continued)

See also: Conversation
Conversation - II
Conversation - III
Conversation - IV
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