Court extends Professor Savva’s pre-trial detention

posted 5 Dec 2013, 08:24 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 5 Dec 2013, 08:27 ]
2 December 2013

Source: (info)
On 29 November the Pervomaisky Regional Court of Krasnodar ruled that Mikhail Savva, a professor at Kuban State University and director of grant programmes at the Southern Regional Resource Centre, should be kept in detention until 30 January, RIA Novosti reports.

The report quotes Mikhail Savva’s lawyer, Marina Dubrovina, as saying: "Following a request by the investigators, the court has extended Professor Savva’s detention for a further two months. We believe that this decision is unlawful and we are appealing against it.” Savva should have been released on 30 November, but the prosecution submitted a request to extend his detention, points out.

Earlier on Friday Krasnodar Regional Court had ruled that the previous decision by a court of first instance to extend Savva’s detention had been lawful.

The defence has repeatedly asked the court to place more lenient restrictions on Savva, who himself has said that he does not intend to evade justice if he is released from detention, since he wishes to “prove his innocence”.

On 8 November Mikhail Fedotov, head of the Human Rights Council, submitted an appeal to Yury Chaika, Prosecutor General, asking for the pre-trial restrictions placed on Savva to be eased. “Only the guilty can be ‘sent to the gallows’, and in this case there is no guilty party and no crime. I believe that the members of the Council who were present and those who have studied all the evidence in the case have all come to the same conclusion, but of course we do not intend to influence the court in any way,” said Fedotov at a press conference.

The Pervomaisky district court of Krasnodar began its hearing of the case proper against Savva on 5 November. According to the accused, the case against him has been entirely fabricated by the regional FSB leadership for three reasons: to exert pressure on civil society organisations in general, to reduce the influence of these organisations and to take personal revenge for his unwavering beliefs. Savva also believes that this case is an excuse to detain him while fresh charges of state treason are prepared against him.

Savva was detained on 12 April after the FSB carried out searches of his apartment and garage. A week before, the civil rights activist had been removed from his post as deputy chair of the region's Gubernatorial Human Rights Council. The Oktyabrsky district court of Krasnodar ruled that he should be held on remand on 13 April, and the Regional Court placed him in custody on 29 April. The civil rights activist is accused of violating Article 159(2)(c) of the Criminal Code (fraud committed through abuse of an official position).

It was later announced that a second criminal case had been opened against Savva, in which he is accused of having received around 90 000 roubles from Kuban State University for a course he never taught.

The FSB claims that Savva is guilty of stealing a grant for 366 000 roubles awarded by the regional government to the NGO Southern Regional Resource Centre for a sociological investigation into relations between local residents and migrants. The security officials insist that this investigation was never carried out, even though the work carried out on the project – entitled “Building Peace” - was handed over to the commissioning organization.

A campaign was launched in support of Savva following his arrest. Parliamentary questions have been addressed to Yury Chaika, Prosecutor General, and Aleksandr Bortnikov, head of the FSB, and an independent investigation is underway. The lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, head of the Public Chamber Committee on citizen security issues, is monitoring Professor Savva’s situation.

On 2 July Memorial Human Rights Centre recognised Savva as a political prisoner. Memorial believe that the accusations against him are contradictory and unfounded. The Centre is calling for him to be released and for his case to be properly investigated.

Translated by Joanne Reynolds