24 Марта 2011 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 516



Markelov-Baburova murder trial news

The Moscow city court has continued hearings of the murder case of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova .

The March 15 hearing opened with yet another attempt by lawyer Aleksandr Vassilyev, who defends Nikita Tikhonov accused of shooting and killing the two victims, to challenge Judge Aleksandr Zamashnyuk for his “bias in favour of the prosecution”. That plea, just as the previous one made on March 9, was turned down. The defence lawyers then lodged a complaint against Zamashnyuk with Moscow’s Qualification College of Judges, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

As the court turned from procedural matters to considering the case in essence, Prosecutor Boris Laktionov read out the protocols of visual studies of the recordings made on the day of the killing by security cameras in Prechistenka Street. The recordings featured a woman in dark clothes who had “paced the sidewalk for some time” covering her face and watching the proceedings on the other side of the street, and then started to walk briskly toward Kropotkinskaya metro station. Several freeze-shots were shown to the jurors.

Earlier, one of the eyewitnesses gave a similar description of a girl he had seen near the scene of the crime. He later identified her on a photo as Yevgenia Khasis, who is accused of compliance in the murder.

Prosecutor Laktionov also presented ballistic evidence stating that the killer bullets had been shot from “one and the same 7.65 mm pistol – a Browning, Mauser or Walther”. The prosecutor deduced it was the Browning (made in 1910) which had been found during a search of Tikhonov’s home. The defendant did not deny he had such a pistol, which he said “a friend brought asking me to fix it”.

Answering questions from the judge and jurors, Tikhonov showed knowledge of the black-market prices of firearms and said, “It will take me a few minutes to mend a Browning because I read special literature on the subject”. He declined to name his clients, saying, “Maybe you’ll get a chance to interrogate my clients someday – but I won’t be the one to tell you their names,” Gazeta.ru reported. As regards the short-barrel Kalashnikov found in his knapsack at the moment of detention, Tikhonov said he was “about to try the submachine-gun somewhere in a forest”.

During the following hearing on March 17, the prosecutor read out the protocol of arrest of the guns and other illegal items found in Tikhonov’s home apartment, and showed the main material evidence – the 7.65 mm Browning from which Markelov and Baburova had been shot and killed. The prosecutor also presented other guns confiscated from Tikhonov, together with cartridges, an ignition cap, and a silencer. He said the accused had also kept literature on firearms at home, including a manual on how to fire submachine gun rounds from a moving car.

As we have reported, the FSB officers who had detained Tikhonov said in court later they had been told another crime was being plotted. Their testimony, as well as the search of Tikhonov’s apartment, led the investigators to conclude that after the double killing in Prechistenka Tikhonov had been ready to commit another murder. But Judge Zamashnyuk warned that information about any crimes unrelated to the case under consideration was forbidden for announcement in the framework of the present trial.



Perm Region. Town mayor convicted of torching journalist’s house

By Vassily Moseyev,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

A district court in the Perm Region has convicted Viktor Begun, mayor of the town of Osa, of organising and facilitating the torching of the house of local journalist Pavel Varenkin, and sentenced him to a suspended term of imprisonment for two and a half years, with a 4-year probation period.

During the 2008 election campaign, Begun – then a candidate for the mayor’s seat – was very much irritated by reports shown by the town television company KTV-Inform, of which Varenkin was editor-in-chief.

As established in court, on the night of October 22 Begun drove his car to Varenkin’s wooden house bringing along Yevgeny Shibayev, a resident of a neighbouring locality, who poured an inflammable liquid on one of the walls and set the house on fire, getting a reward of RUR 5,000 from Begun.

A taxi driver who happened to be driving by called his traffic controller on the phone, and a fire brigade arrived soon enough to prevent a bigger disaster. Varenkin, his wife and two children were inside the house at the time.

Viktor Begun did win that election race and became town mayor. Investigators received a court warrant to eavesdrop on his telephone conversations, which measure confirmed their suspicions that it was Begun who had masterminded the arson.

The mayor took pains to drag out the opening of court hearings for as long as possible: his defence lawyers challenged judges several times, and the accused repeatedly failed to appear in court claiming he was sick. Finally, at the prosecutors’ insistence, the court ruled to get the alleged arsonist arrested in February 2011 so the trial could be started.

Curiously enough, V. Begun is still head of administration in the town of Osa.


Perm Region. Local administrator’s legal claim against TV company turned down

By Vassily Moseyev,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

Alexander Ponomaryov, head of the township of Pyskor, Perm Region, has filed a legal claim with the city court of Berezniki against the local television company TeleVideoTsentr, demanding RUR 500,000 in moral damage compensation for the circulation of what he described as “information damaging my honour, dignity and business reputation”. He also urged the TV company to officially refute its “libellous” report.

The village head got offended by a report in the Nashi Novosti news show that said “villagers suspect the administration head of money laundering and the illegal extraction of sand-and-gravel mix”, and of “stealing about 1,000 tonnes of shingle from the local beach to reconstruct the dam”. Ponomaryov said the dam reconstruction and recreational development were functions assigned to contractors hired by the village administration, and that he had “nothing at all to do with how sand-and-gravel mix is used”.

TeleVideoTsentr, for its part, presented proofs that it was villagers’ personal opinions about the administration’s performance that had been cited in its TV story, and pointed out that in line with ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) ruling of 23 October 2008, “the credibility of evaluative judgments is not subject to proving in court”.

In accordance with Article 10 of the Human Rights Convention, Article 29 of the RF Constitution and other legislation, the city court in Berezniki turned Ponomaryov’s legal claim down. After the village head challenged that decision before the higher-standing regional court, the latter found the primary court’s ruling well substantiated and left Ponomaryov’s protest unsatisfied.


Republic of Komi. Court satisfies journalist’s claim against police officers’ unlawful actions

By Natalia Severskaya,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

The city court in Syktyvkar, Komi Republic, has considered a legal claim lodged by newspaper Krasnoye Znamya photo correspondent Andrei Shopsha against the republic’s Internal Affairs Department in connection with his unlawful detention by the police.

The incident occurred on September 28, 2010, during a picketing action staged by Memorial Association activists along the route of the cortege carrying visiting Premier Vladimir Putin. As protesters started unfolding transparencies, police cracked down on them, detaining activists together with Shopsha who had been taking pictures of what was going on.

“Neither my assurances that I was not a protester but a reporter fulfilling my editor’s assignment, nor my journalistic ID helped – they told me my ID and passport were forged, and took me to the police station for identification,” A. Shopsha said.

The journalist spent the following two hours at the police station, then was questioned and released with an apology but without explanations why he had been detained.

The court supported his legal claim, declaring his detention and restriction of his freedom of movement unlawful.


St. Petersburg. Newspaper protests against official pressure

By Roman Zakharov,
GDF staff correspondent in North-Western Federal District

The publisher of newspapers Moy Rayon (distributed free of charge in St. Petersburg and Moscow) has accused the St. Petersburg administration of exerting pressure on his media outlet. An appeal to Governor Valentina Matviyenko says Smolny [the seat of the city government] demanded the removal of newspaper stalls from the Okey retail network, initiated an unscheduled inspection of the newspaper by the tax agency, and had Moy Rayon staffers summoned to OBEP [special police force against economic crime] for questioning. In the publisher’s view, all those measures were ordered in response to critical publications.

This is not for the first time that Moy Rayon has a conflict with authorities. As we have reported, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief was accused of extremism some time ago , and attempts were made to dictate to the editor how to cover the latest election campaign.

Bernard Mohr of Norway’s Schibsted Media Group, the owner of Moy Rayon, said after an article criticising Governor Matviyenko was published on February 4, the newspaper came under pressure. On February 8, the Okey retail chain suddenly broke the distribution agreement it had signed with the newspaper only a couple of weeks before. That was followed by the removal of Moy Rayon kiosks from the Severny and Sezon department stores, whose staffers explained those activities by administration demands for the distribution of Moy Rayon to be stopped. The pressure campaign was crowned by the unplanned tax inspection and the staffers’ questioning by OBEP.

Significantly enough, actions against Moy Rayon coincided “by chance” with the launch of other district newspapers, SPb.Rayony.RF, supported by the city authorities. “We are left to guess about the motives of those actions by administration officials (whose individual names are yet to be established). In our view, the alternative newspaper project is somehow or other linked with this situation,” Grigory Kunis, the founder and head manager of Moy Rayon, said in an interview for the GDF. It may as well be noted that the St. Petersburg District and Municipal Media Editors’ Club earlier protested against Smolny’s support for its “pocket newspapers” project.

The city administration has not replied to Moy Rayon’s appeal so far. The publisher and staffers are convinced the best way to defend their interests would be to bring the conflict to the focus of public attention. “We will do everything to have the authorities maintain an open dialogue with us and make sure that each instance of uncivilized behaviour by administration officials becomes known to the public,” Kunis said.


Voronezh. “Popular Assembly” claims offended by journalists

By Roman Zholud,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

Activists of the public movement “Popular Assembly” (PA) in Voronezh are claiming offended by students of journalism who “provided distorted coverage” of one of PA’s recent public actions.

Earlier this month, two web-based youth newspapers, Studline and Zebra, issued by students of the school of journalism of Voronezh State University, carried reports about a PA action staged in the city on the eve of Women’s Day (March 8). Activists invited men on the street to go through alcohol tests. Anyone who turned out to be sober was awarded a chocolate bar.

After the reports were posted, comments appeared on the chat forums signed by persons claiming to be Popular Assembly members. Commentators threatened to sue the journalists for “libel” in connection with a passage saying that foreigners had been spared the need to go through the alcohol tests. A few days later, the PA press service made public a statement entitled “Liberal Media Against Anti-Alcohol Campaigns”.

“We have been accused of infringing foreign citizens’ rights by excluding them from our action,” the statement said. “For our part, we would like to warn anyone seeking to gain cheap popularity through smearing the Russian patriots: Article 129 (‘Libel’) of the RF Criminal Code provides legal liability for attempts to create this kind of precedents!”

Lawyers at the Voronezh-based Media Rights Defence Centre studied the texts of the reports, finding no signs of libel in them. The authors did not circulate any information that might be deemed smearing. The reports never mentioned PA at all, which means the movement is in no position to advance any claims. And finally, there is absolutely nothing to prove malicious intent, which is “a must” for the authors to be held liable.

Young journalists told the Media Rights Centre that Popular Assembly activists have attempted to coerce them into erasing their reports from the websites, and threatened them with violence.


Kursk. Editor forced to resign

Yevgeny Kotyayev, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Kurskaya Pravda, is about to resign – formally, of his own free will, but the way his colleagues and the public look at it, under political pressure from the authorities.

On March 16, he tendered his resignation and is to quit working as of March 29. Prior to that, he never thought of leaving.

Kotyayev and his colleagues say the newspaper’s founder – the regional administration – must have felt unhappy about his March 15 article “Pilot Project Collapse”, in which he criticized the poor performance of the regional branch of United Russia during the recent elections, questioning the relevance of the party’s campaign concept and the efficiency of personal actions of its chief nominee, State Duma deputy Valery Ryazansky.

As has become known, Y. Kotyayev is not planning to insist on his reinstatement. But the regional public is appalled by this clear instance of political pressure on a respected journalist who acted in full compliance with the law and professional ethical norms. Activists are preparing an appeal to the regional authorities.

Kurskaya Pravda is a regional public and political newspaper – the oldest in the region. It is released thrice a week and has a circulation of 25,000.


Kurgan. Court reinstates governor-sacked editor

By Valentina Pichurina,
city of Kurgan

The city court in Kurgan chaired by Judge Svetlana Timofeyeva has reinstated Valentina Shepeleva as editor-in-chief of the district newspaper Golos Tselinnika.

The court declared Governor Oleg Bogomolov’s order on her dismissal unlawful and required the newspaper to pay Shepeleva her wages for the period of forced absenteeism, and the regional Press and Media Committee to pay her RUR 10,000 in moral damage compensation. The plaintiff’s claim of moral compensation payable also by the governor was turned down.

As we have reported, on January 14 the city court found nothing wrong with Governor Bogomolov’s order firing Shepeleva at zero notice and without explaining the reasons why. Citing the regional law “On the Management of State Property in the Kurgan Region”, the governor simply decreed that “the 6 May 2006 work agreement with Valentina Shepeleva be terminated as of 18 August 2010, relieving her of the duties of editor-in-chief of Golos Tselinnika in line with Article 278.2 of the RF Labour Code”.

However, the Civil Law Collegium of the regional court, chaired by Nikolai Mochegayev, considered Shepeleva’s appeal against the governor’s order and returned the case for review by another judge.

The hearings were held on March 16 and 18. Shepeleva’s interests were defended in court by Yelena Ovchinnikova of the Yekaterinburg Centre for Journalism in Extreme Situations. Maria Pospelova represented the prosecution. At the plaintiff’s request, the court summoned Natalia Kolobayeva, chief media supervisor at the regional department of RosKomNadzor (agency in charge of public communications), who answered the parties’ numerous questions concerning instruments of legal regulation of media performance. Specifically, she answered questions asked by the governor’s representative who had originally protested against her involvement in the proceedings.

In line with the court decision, Valentina Shepeleva is to resume her work as editor without delay. That, however, will not stop the other party from challenging the court ruling before a higher-standing judicial authority.



Some statistics cited

Last week, the Glasnost Defence Foundation was referred to at least 10 times in the Internet, including at:



Press Development Institute Siberia holds seminar in Novosibirsk

The inter-regional association Agora and the Press Development Institute Siberia held a seminar in Novosibirsk March 18 to highlight human rights legislation novelties of importance to civil society activists and journalists.

The seminar’s moderator, Agora president Pavel Chikov, told the attendees how to ensure the safety of human rights activities and explained the nuances of the legal status of NGOs and public associations.

During the first part of the seminar, participants reviewed some optimal schemes of public association performance, with focus on the latest changes to the rules of NGO taxation. Chikov also gave some hints as to how to resist raider attempts to seize non-profit organisations.

The second part was dedicated to the theory and practice of the enforcement of Russian legislation on combating extremism. After a brief introduction and a review of the most significant judicial cases and trends, the moderator went into detail about the algorithm of work of the government agencies enforcing the Anti-Terrorism Law and their relationships with human rights defenders.

In conclusion, the participants were advised how to act correctly in the event of finding themselves the subject of close attention from law enforcement. Summing up the seminar, P. Chikov reminded the audience of the need to constantly think about proofs of the legality of their activities and to have a good lawyer among friends, just in case.

The programme is implemented with financial assistance from the USAID and with technical support by Management Systems International (MSI).


This Digest has been prepared by the Glasnost Defence Foundation (GDF),


We appreciate the support of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Digest released once a week, on Mondays, since August 11, 2000.
Distributed by e-mail to 1,600 subscribers in and outside Russia.

Editor-in-chief: Alexei Simonov

Editorial board: Boris Timoshenko – Monitoring Service chief, Pyotr Polonitsky – head of GDF regional network, Svetlana Zemskova – lawyer, Vsevolod Shelkhovskoy – translator, Alexander Yefremov – web administrator in charge of Digest distribution.

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