There is Justice in Russia

posted 15 Jun 2011, 06:32 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 15 Jun 2011, 06:53 ]

There is justice in Russia... Oleg Orlov, chair of the board of the Memorial Human Rights Centre, was able to believe this after his acquittal on 14 June 2011 by Judge Karina Morozova in Court No. 363, in Moscow’s Khamovniki district. The Justice of the Peace found the human rights defender not guilty of defamation of the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov. Oleg Orlov had been accused of this crime under Article 129, Section 3, of the Penal Code of the Russian Federation by prosecutors and the lawyer for Ramzan Kadyrov, Andrei Krasnenkov.

The charges were brought after Oleg Orlov had spoken about the personal responsibility of Ramzan Kadyrov, as the highest official figure in the Republic of Chechnya, for the death on 15 July 2009 of Natalya Estemirova, a staff member of the Chechen office of Memorial. After it became known that Natalya Estemirova had been killed, Oleg Orlov told the media: “I know, and I am sure of it, who is guilty of the murder of Natasha Estemirova. We all know this person. He is called Ramzan Kadyrov, President of the Republic of Chechnya. Ramzan has already threatened Natalya, insulted her, and considered her to be his personal enemy.”

Half-an-hour before the verdict was announced there was no room to move in the only courtroom in the building. The most comfortable places – on the benches by the window – had been occupied early on by members of the Chechen diaspora. Colleagues and friends of the defendant who came later, and also the journalists, were filling up the aisles. Many were forced to remain outside the courtroom in the corridor. Fortunately the door remained open and no one was driven out of the courtroom.

Prosecutor Tatyana Popova was absent for reasons that are no known.

All the time the verdict was being announced, trial participants and members of the public stood. It was extremely hot and stuffy.

That the verdict would probably be an acquittal was clear from the very first words of Karina Morozova. Having laid out the version of the prosecution, she said that “the court had established other circumstances.”

The Judge said that during the trial no evidence had been presented that Oleg Orlov had a direct intent to disseminate defamatory statements about Ramzan Kadyrov. Defamation, the Judge noted, is characterized by the fact that the person who makes the statement knowingly does so in the awareness that the information is false. Moreover, Oleg Orlov “had only stated facts known to him” and “had expressed judgements on the basis of the information he had.”

From the evidence of the prosecution witnesses it follows that they were not witnesses to threats made by Ramzan Kadyrov against Natalya Estemirova. But this does not mean that such threats had not been made, the Judge ruled. In the verdict she also included much evidence by witnesses for the defence and by Oleg Orlov himself that these threats had been made.

The Court completely rejected submissions made by Ramzan Kadyrov since he did not provide evidence of intent on the part of Oleg Orlov.

The words of Karina Morozova that the human rights defender was acquitted because he had committed no crime were greeted by applause in the courtroom.

“I had no doubts that the law was on our side,” Genri Reznik, lawyer for Oleg Orlov, said, commenting on the judgment.

In his turn, Andrei Krasnenkov said that he intended to appeal against the verdict in Moscow’s Khamovniki District Court.

Oleg Orlov himself admitted: “I am happy. Happy not for myself, but for the fact that there is still justice in our country.”

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Rights in Russia,
15 Jun 2011, 06:54