Ludmila Alekseeva on the Bolotnaya Prisoners: They are in detention for us all

posted 25 Jul 2013, 12:24 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 25 Jul 2013, 12:29 ]
24 July 2013 

Source: (info)
A conversation on air - Radio Liberty 

Kristina Gorelik: A huge number of people came to the Pussy Riot trial. And to get to Kirov where the trial of Aleksei Navalny took place you couldn’t get a ticket. But at the trials of the “Bolotnaya Prisoners” – silence. Why is that?

Ludmila Alekseeva: You know, it’s hard for me to judge, I can Вы знаете, мне трудно судить, я могу констатировать, что это так. It’s true that when the Pussy Riot trial began, there was a crowd outside the courtroom, and now the trial is empty. But surely these guys, who face longer terms in prison and are obviously innocent, don’t deserve less attention?

I think it is no accident that the start of this trial was set for the summer time when many are on vacation and at their dachas. There is always a fall in public activity in the summer. That’s the first thing. And secondly, it is obvious that this trial will last a long time, it is taking place in Moscow City Court, in other words not in the centre of Moscow, but quite far away, on Bogorodsky Val, a place that far from everyone knows. This means you have to go somewhere, to an address you don’t know, in the summer time, in the heat. And the trial will last about two more months. “The heat will go down and I’ll go,” that’s how people are thinking. But the relatives of the defendants who come every day despite the heat, they feel bitter. Father Polikhovich said: “There were about 80,000 people on this march, and after all each one of them could be sitting in the dock now. Where have they all gone to, these 80,000, why are they nowhere to be seen?

And I feel sorry for the guys. I should tell you that I have been there, the courtroom is not exactly big, but bigger than the usual district court, most of the room is occupied, but all the same three quarters of the places are free, you can’t say it’s full up. Next to the court building there is a nice square with a fountain and a bench. It is a very good place to meet people, to stand with placards, to hold a picket, to talk with journalists. But it is empty.

This really disappoints me, because this trial of these guys is designed to be a show trial. Only pressure from society, only the broadest interest from the public in the casecan save them.

If everything will be quiet, the sentences will be awful; if there are a lot of public protests then the sentences will be smaller, I don’t deceive myself that there will be an acquittal, unfortunately things like that don’t happen in our country, with our ‘humane’ courts, but after all it is important what terms of imprisonment are handed down. I can still remember the Soviet times, many of my friends, comrades and colleagues were in the dock for their human rights work. We could not help them at all. We went to the trials all the time, and all the same the sentences handed down were the worst possible. We knew this was going to happen, and they knew it would happen. But they said many times, and they all said the same thing and no one thought otherwise, that people in this situation feel quite differently, and you are able to bear all these years of imprisonment quite differently, if you know that people remember you, people support you, and they sympathize with you.

That’s why I feel this is so very important that people come to the trial. I shall go every day when it is possible, and I shall do all I can during the trial – and the court sessions are being held on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays – to be able to come to the court. I shall come no matter how long it lasts. Because I believe it is my civic duty before these people who are on trial not only for themselves, but for all of us and for me among others.

Kristina Gorelik: I think that when people see this interview, the number of people in the square outside the courtroom will soon increase.

Ludmila Alekseeva: I most sincerely ask people, and it is my most urgent request: come to this trial whenever and as often as you can.