Anastasia Denisova

The Charges against Anastasia Denisova: The Investigation is Confused

Source: (Author), 31/03/10

· Legal Defence

· Human Rights Defenders

· Ministry of Internal Affairs

· Public Prosecutor

· Krasnodar Region

The public prosecutor has withdrawn the charges against Anastasia Denisova, recognizing significant violations in the conduct of the case. The investigation had confused dates, the names of streets and experts, and had not even established the real owners and users of the hard drives and laptop seized.

On 31 March in Leninsky District Court, Krasnodar, the public prosecutor asked the judge, German Lonshakov, to return the case of Anastasia Denisova, leader of the ETnIKA human rights organization and member of the Coordinating Committee of the International Youth Human Rights Movement, to the prosecutor’s office in view of significant violations in preparation of the indictment. The judge granted the request and sent the case back to the prosecutors. Anastasia Denisova’s representative, the lawyer Marina Dubrovina, had already called for this to happen on 22 March. However, it took four sessions of preliminary hearings for the prosecutors themselves to accept there had been clear violations of the law.

Marina Dubrovina, the lawyer representing the interests of the director of ETnIKA, at the initiative of the AGORA Human Rights Association, had repeatedly declared that the conclusions of experts on all the charges were of a dubious nature; and also that neither the place nor the time of the crime of which the human rights defender had been accused had been established, nor had the real owners and users of the hard disks and laptop that had been seized. In particular, in some documents the police investigator said that the computers were seized from an address on Lenin Street, in others – that it was on Frunze Street (in one place different numbers of houses had been given, separated by a slash), in some of the case materials the date on which the "crime" was committed differed from the date stated in others.

During a search of the apartment of Anastasia Denisova, photo-journalist Yury Ivashchenko had immediately announced that a laptop examined by the police belonged to him and presented documents witnessing the fact that he had purchased it in a specialized store. "The investigation did not even try to question him about this and did not add the documents to the case file,” said Ramil Ahmetgaliev, a lawyer and legal analyst with AGORA. “So far as the ‘expertise’ conducted by the police is concerned, it was established that after the search, there was unlawful access to the computers that had been seized. The investigator stated that he had appointed an expert to conduct the examination, and initially this name was to be found in the official documents. However, the head of the organization where the expertise was conducted cited another name. The methodology used by the examination was impressive – the expert compared the software code numbers from the hard disks and the photo-journalist’s laptop that had been seized with “information available on the internet”. "If he found the code numbers on the Internet, he concluded that the installed software was unlicensed. Programmers and many ordinary users will find such an approach, to say the least, extremely dubious." Anastasia Denisova herself, as an illustrative example, points to a passage from the expert’s conclusions: "His ‘methodology’ made it possible to call software pre-installed by the laptop manufacturer unlicensed, even though there was a label on the reverse side of the laptop certifying its authenticity."

In submitting the case to the court, the prosecutor insisted that Anastasia Denisova had "violated copyright law and illegally used software for personal computers, which is property protected under copyright law" and also "used malware for computers.” The leader of ETnIKa did not admit guilt and linked the prosecution with her professional work.

Interestingly, having charged Anastasia Denisova, the investigator issued a travel restriction and an order that Anastasia Denisova should not disclose materials related to the preliminary investigation of the case. In the latter document the investigator expressed concern about the dissemination in Russian media of information about the situation surrounding the human rights defender. The legal analysts from AGORA noted that this was an illegal attempt by the investigators to deprive the director of ETnIKa the right to defend herself through publicity of her criminal prosecution. The Russian Constitutional Court on a number of occasions has given unambiguous clarifications indicating that investigating authorities may not force the accused to agree not to disclose information about the materials of the case. The Court ruled that the norms establishing the inadmissibility of the disclosure of the materials of the preliminary investigation are applicable in conjunction with criminal procedural norms that define the legal status of the various participants in criminal proceedings, including the accused. The Code of Criminal Procedure does not assign to the defendant an obligation not to disclose the materials of the preliminary investigation, with subsequent criminal prosecution for their disclosure.

On 11 January 2010, it will be recalled, police conducted a search of the Krasnodar apartment in which Anastasia Denisova lives. That day police officers came to the apartment, together with the landlady and witnesses, with a court order dated 6 January to conduct a search. The officers told the landlady that they were conducting a “special operation in connection with the terrorist threat to establish whether those living in the apartment were those with residence permits to do so." The law enforcement officers told Anastasia Denisova that they were looking for unlicensed software. As a result of the search, which lasted more than three hours, the police seized from the apartment a laptop, an external hard drive and a memory stick.

A previous search had taken place in October 2009 in accommodation rented by Anastasia Denisova. The police had then also searched for counterfeit software