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Return to the Past: the ‘Bolotnoe case’ is a Political Trial. Statement by International Memorial Society

4 July 2013 

Source: (info)
The trial of those suspected of being involved in 'mass disorder' which allegedly took place on Bolotnaya Square on 6 May 2012 has begun in Moscow. It seems unlikely this event would have drawn such serious attention, if it was indeed a routine trial of people who had taken part in clashes between demonstrators and the police. These kinds of conflicts take place in every country. In democratic countries, if clashes of this kind do not entail serious consequences, they are usually not seen as a severe violation of the law, since the rights of citizens to demonstrate is considered a priority.

On 6 May 2012, nothing that would deserve to be called 'mass disorder' took place – neither from a legal point of view, nor from the point of view of a common observer. There were no serious victims among the police, nor were there any shattered shop-windows, nor any overturned cars, nor any attempts by the demonstrators to use weapons. No convincing evidence of intentional or deliberate actions by the demonstrators to cause harm has been presented to the public. On the other hand, there is abundant of evidence of unprofessional behaviour by the police that led to clashes with demonstrators, as well as of inappropriate use of force by the police. 

From the start of the investigation, the Investigative Committee clearly took the side of the police. The partiality of the investigation, the exaggerated criminal classification of the events by the investigative agencies, the crowds of investigators brought in to work on the case, the investigation of incidences about which there was nothing out of the ordinary, the inappropriate use of custody against suspects – all of these issues in themselves merit close public attention.

Unfortunately, there is one other sinister aspect to the 'Bolotnoe case' that is reminiscent of our country's tragic past: the search for a ‘conspiracy.’

In spite of the obvious evidence and against simple common sense, the investigators are trying to 'glue together' a case against a group of people, to uncover a conspiracy where there is absolutely no sign of one. In the worst traditions of our country, they are searching for a 'foreign trace' in the events that took place on 6 May. And they have succeeded in finding one: it turns out that Georgia, a hostile state, has sought for the ridiculous sum of $30,000 to plan the overthrow of the Russian authorities. This crude concoction, in which the successors of Dzerzhinsky and Andropov have undoubtedly had a hand, has been shamelessly advertised far and wide by the government media.

All of this obliges one to think that the 'Bolotnoe trial' should not be viewed as an ordinary criminal prosecution, but as a political trial. The political motivations behind the actions of the demonstrators are evident, and that in itself does not provide them with immunity from prosecution in the courts, if indeed they did break the law. However a political motivation is clearly also visible in the actions of the law enforcement authorities – and that is absolutely unacceptable. A fair trial should have freed the defendants and closed the case solely on the grounds that the investigation has been unfair and biased, and has not been in the interests not of the law, but of the authorities.

Unfortunately, nothing that has happened until now in the context of the 'Bolotnoe case' has given grounds to hope there will be a fair trial.

Whatever happens, the outcome of this trial will demonstrate to the country and to the rest of the world what kind of government we have in Russia today: a state based on the rule of law, or a police state.

2 July 2013

International Memorial Society