14 Декабря 2017 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 826

December 4, 2017


Despite numerous falsifications, court in Omsk convicts lady journalist's son

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Omsk's Kievsky district court sentenced Novaya Gazeta - Region deputy editor-in-chief Natalia Gergert's son to 300 hours of community service for a social media repost containing national-origin based insult of several groups of the population. The repost appeared three years ago when Gergert's son attended school; the GDF reported at the time that the post had come with a message from an unknown spammer and that the boy had deleted it immediately after he saw it on his page. By that time, however, law enforcement bodies had made its screenshots (see GDF digest 802-803).

The boy's case is unique in terms of Criminal Procedure Code violations among similar cases in which more than 1,300 rulings have been passed over the past two years. For example, a witness to the search admitted that she had signed the testimony without reading it; the identities of seven witnesses were not disclosed although the court found out that they had never been threatened and the “linguists” who carried out the expert examination in the absence of the defendant's lawyers, called the boy the “author of the posts” 22 times though he had neither written nor commented on them...

Having read the 1,500-page repost case, Moscow-based rights activist, Rus Sidyashchaya (Russia Behind Bars) movement representative Alexei Fedyarov concluded that the whole body of evidence was at odds with effective legislation. The Anti-Extremism Centre (TsPE) referred the case to the Investigative Committee's Department for the Sverdlovsk Region on the strength of the resolution signed by TsPE senior officer in violation of regulations (jointly adopted by the Interior Ministry, the Federal Security Service and the Investigative Committee) which assign this prerogative to TsPE director.

Fedyarov highlighted the violations in his petition demanding that the court take them out of the body of evidence. This, however, didn't worry Omsk law enforcement at all. The lawyer was amazed at how easily they found a way out of the situation which seemed hopeless to the prosecutor. “His aide Natalia Ilchenko really surprised me,” Fedyarov told GDF. “First, she showed the court a second copy of the investigator's findings allegedly taken from TsPE initial case against the boy. Unlike the first copy, it was signed by TsPE director; the list of referred materials and other inconsistencies were largely corrected. It follows that the case now has two quite different registered copies of the same document. Clearly, the second is a freshly-made copy, the signature on it can smear off, and importantly, it has no punched holes for binding it to the case; they must have forgotten it. But the court has not detected the outright fake, nor does it hear the lawyer pointing out at it. For me, a former prosecutor, the situation looks very sad as it gives me a broader insight into the investigator's and the court's ability to do absolutely shameless things”.

Simultaneously, the rights activist noted a violation of the 2013 regulations that deprived the prosecutors of the right to request or obtain the investigator's materials, or use such materials at the hearings.

This lawlessness shatters the confidence in law enforcement bodies the judicial system, Fedyarov said. He added he would report these facts to the Russian prosecutor-general.

Experts said the court had meted out the softest possible punishment for the offence the boy had been accused of, but given the above circumstances, it should have either acquitted him or returned the case to the prosecutor. Natalia Gergert told GDF that if the regional court upheld the ruling, it would be appealed against at higher Russian courts and ultimately, at the European Court of Human Rights.

Construction company at law with online newspaper in Ryazan

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Ryazan's Svoya Kolokolnya website protested chaotic housing construction in the city and was accused of damaging a local developer's reputation. The defendant's interests are represented by Voronezh-based Media Rights Defence Centre lawyers.

The Ryazan Region arbitration court is hearing a slander case against the local online newspaper Svoya Kolokolnya. The plaintiff is the Ryazan-based developer Severnaya Kompaniya. Its representatives said the story contained untrue and slanderous information whose dissemination caused financial losses to the company. They also showed the calculations indicating a decrease in the number of investors in Severnaya Kompaniya housing construction projects after the publication of the story.

Several articles posted by the newspaper in 2016-2017 criticised unregulated and what the authors believed unlawful construction companies' activities in Ryazan. Severnaya Kompaniya demands disavowal of the critical story and 96,500 roubles in damages from Svoya Kolokolnya.

It asked the court to hold hearings behind closed doors alleging that the case, if presented to the public, would “reveal a commercial secret”. However, the court turned down the petition. The company now insists on sociological expert examination to estimate the amount of damage caused by the publication.

The next hearing is scheduled for 19 December.

Court in Perm fails to see any “investigative secrets” in lawsuit against former minister

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Leninsky district court in Perm on 29 November rejected Moscow-appointed defence lawyer Andrei Bastrakov's request for the judge to ask the press out while hearing the criminal case against Yevgeny Baluyev, former regional minister of information development and communications, charged with fraud and illegal keeping of ammunition.

According to the version advanced by the FSB, Baluyev in 2014-2016 stole more than 24.5 million roubles in collusion with Dmitry Dymbrylov, head of the regional Multifunctional Center for the Provision of Government and Municipal Services; deputy head Natalya Gladkova (Baluyev's relative); her husband Ilya Gladkov, a businessman; and Ivan Ovchinnikov, also a businessman and member of the regional Youth Parliament representing the ruling United Russia party. That money had been allocated from the federal treasury for establishing a network of multifunctional centres. Also, Baluyev, Dymbrylov and Gladkova are suspected of stealing their subordinates' bonuses worth a total of 2.1 million roubles. While searching the ex-minister's apartment in Perm (his permanent place of residence is Moscow), law enforcers found 13 rifle cartridges of caliber 7.62.

Defendant Baluyev fully confessed to his part in the crime and reaffirmed his request, made during the investigation, that his case be heard in line with the special procedure - without questioning the witnesses or exploring the full body of evidence collected. This means he may be in for not more than two-thirds of the maximum punishment envisaged. Defence lawyer Bastrakov supported his client's position by suggesting that the court sitting be closed to the press. “Some accomplices are still under investigation,” he said. “We intend to present some evidence that might serve to mitigate the sentence, and this may lead to the disclosure of certain investigative secrets”. State prosecutor Vitaly Kopylov and the victims' representative Natalya Gordeyeva left the matter at the court's discretion. After 42 minutes in the retiring room, Judge Sergei Shtyrov announced the decision: to consider only the guilt-mitigating evidence behind closed doors. After Prosecutor Kopylov read out the indictment, the public was invited to leave temporarily. After 20 minutes or so, the audience was invited back into the courtroom and the hearing of arguments was held openly.

On 30 November, before the ruling was passed, Baluyev told the GDF that nothing special had been discussed at the closed sitting: “They just read out my work record”. The reading of the sentence took 2.5 hours and proceeded in front of video and photo cameras, and online and print media reporters. The former official, who was sentenced to 6 years in a general-regime penal colony and 1 million roubles in fine, was detained right in the courtroom.


Media-related conflicts registered by GDF Monitoring Service on RF territory in November 2017

Attacks on journalists and bloggers - 7 (Igor Rudnikov, chief editor, newspaper Novyye Kolyosa, Kaliningrad; Vladimir Putilin, press secretary, Gradus-TV, Moscow; Denis Adamov and Timofei Yefremov, staffers of Yakutia.info, Yakutsk; Andrei Timeskov, Novyye Izvestia correspondent, St. Petersburg; Maria Semenyachenko, REN TV correspondent, Moscow; Anton Palchikov and Valery Faustov, journalists, Lipetskoye Vremya television channel, Lipetsk; Rossiya 1 TV channel's film crew, Moscow)

Criminal charges against journalists, media and bloggers - 3 (Igor Rudnikov, chief editor, newspaper Novyye Kolyosa, Kaliningrad; Anatoly Pleshanov, blogger, Tver; Darya Komarova, former chief editor of now-closed newspaper Ekspert Chuvashii, Cheboksary)

Illegal sacking of editor/journalist - 1 (Vyacheslav Filogriyevsky, newsroom chief editor, MTK, Magadan)

Detention by police (FSB, etc.) - 5 (Igor Rudnikov, chief editor, newspaper Novyye Kolyosa, Kaliningrad; Andrei Yezhov, Ekho Moskvy correspondent, Moscow; Olga Spiridonova, Gradus- TV correspondent, Moscow; Leonid Kudinov, blogger, Krasnodar)

Threats against journalists, bloggers and media - 6 (Novyi Den news agency, Yekaterinburg; Vladimir Putilin, press secretary, Gradus-TV, Moscow; Denis Adamov and Timofei Yefremov, staffers of Yakutia.info, Yakutsk; Alexander Sotnik, journalist, Sotnik-TV channel, Moscow; film crew of Lipetsk State TV/Radio Company, Lipetsk Region; Yulia Zavyalova, chief editor, Bloknot Volgograda publication, Volgograd)

Denial of access to information (including bans on audio/video recording and photography; denials of accreditation; restrictions on visits to or presence at events held in government agencies, at industrial enterprises, in state institutions, etc.) - 29

Closure of media - 1 (Malina online news channel, Yekaterinburg)

Confiscation of/damage to photo, video and audio apparatus and computers - 1 (telephone of Maria Semenyachenko, REN-TV correspondent, Moscow)

Administrative pressure (unscheduled inspections by sanitary, fire and tax inspectors) - 1 (Regional Press Institute, St. Petersburg)

Other forms of pressure/infringement of journalists' rights - 34


Contrary to official promises, only two instead of 10 press pavilions to be installed in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The news agency Sakh.com follows up on the decline in the number of newspaper retail outlets (see GDF digests 669-670 gdf.ru and 785 gdf.ru).

All newspaper kiosks were removed from the streets of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk in 2016. Town Hall said in an official statement that the newsagents did not fit into the architectural concept of urban development. Concerned over print media availability, the Sakhalin branch of the Russian Union of Journalists arranged a meeting with head of the regional Agency for Architecture and Urban Construction Semyon Vyalkin. The official assured the journalists that two or even three types of modern newspaper kiosks would soon re-appear in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk streets.

It seems he delivered on his promise as the first 25 of the 68 newsagents were launched. All the press pavilions were dual-function projects as they were installed at bus stops. This, however, only aggravated the problem. The modern press pavilions never opened; business people complained about the problems they encountered as they started newsagent business, while sellers were unhappy with the small workspace and other inconveniences.

The regional centre still has no functioning newspaper outlets at the turn of the year, raising questions from both readers and distributors.

Sakh.com placed another inquiry with the Town Hall press service which replied that the town administration had planned to procure and install ten mobile newsagents in 2017 but that the tender scheduled for July had not taken place. There was just one bidder and his documents contained technical errors.

Officials decided to carry out a new study of the mobile newsagent market in order to “update tender requirements for construction materials”. The officials thus aimed to attract more potential bidders.

In November, they re-announced the tender for procurement and installation of mobile trade outlets. However, Town Hall only planned to buy two units because the fiscal year was about to close. The decision on the remaining kiosks will be made in the new fiscal year.

The mayoral press service also noted that auditors would look into the efficiency of the Department for Food and Consumer Market which had been blamed for delay in tender arrangements.

Stavropol: Judicial sanctions should be fair and commensurate

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

The latest issue of the independent newspaper Otkrytaya Gazeta carried journalist Yelena Suslova's story of how “officials, on behalf of the state, launched financial terror against her for participating in last year's elections”. The state, on the other hand, in the person of law-enforcement bodies' representatives, is not performing its duty to protect her and her family.

In 2016, Yelena ran in the election to regional legislature in the Kislovodsk district. She contributed 2,000 roubles of her own money to the Election Fund as she opened her personal election account. She failed to gather the necessary amount of signatures to support her nomination and had to withdraw from the race by decision of the Kislovodsk Election Committee. The journalist spent 1,000 roubles for printing signature forms; the second part of the contributed sum was returned to her when she closed her account.

On 31 October 2017, magistrate Svetlana Butina at Yessentuki Court No. 4 found Yelena Suslova guilty of administrative offence covered by Article 5.15.1 of the Administrative Code for delaying her report on spending 1,000 roubles of election campaign money and fined her 20,000 roubles, which exceeds the unreported amount by 20 times (!).

The journalist did not cause any damage whatsoever to the state. Meanwhile, Yelena believes that the state while taxing her for the guarantee of protection it was unable to provide, did cause tremendous damage to her.

During the election campaign, unidentified attackers threw a Molotov cocktail bottle into the yard of the house where the journalist lived together with her parents. In July and August 2016, GDF carried stories about the attack (gdf.ru and gdf.ru). Suslova had no doubts that the attack was linked to her professional activity, as she had investigated corruption at government bodies for a long time. She is a Sakharov Prize nominee and Artyom Borovik Prize laureate. A criminal case was opened soon after the arson attempt but the perpetrators have never been found. The state therefore failed to provide the safety of a regional election candidate.

Yelena tended to her two elderly parents for a year, her bed-ridden mother and her father, a disabled person who had suffered two heart attacks. She had no time to go to Kislovodsk to compose and submit her financial statement to the authorities. She missed the reporting deadline by two days, so she attached documents explaining her delay. However, magistrate Butina did not take these documents into consideration and her resolution did not acknowledge them either.

A stiff fine was imposed on Suslova. In criminal cases, the fines for bribe-takers can only exceed the amount of the bribe by five times. The journalist who caused no damage to the state and suffered from its inaction was punished with a fine exceeding the sum she had spent by 20 times.

The Russian Federation Constitutional Court, in its resolution No. 8-P dated 11 March 1998, said that the sanctions such as fines should be fair and commensurate and stay within the general law framework to meet the requirements set by the Russian Constitution. The legal position spelled out by the Constitutional Court applies to all cases of administrative offence. If the magistrate's resolution is upheld by the higher court in the Stavropol Region, Yelena will ask the Constitutional Court to help her defend her rights.

Criminal probe halted again in Khabarovsk Region

By Tatyana Sedykh, editor, newspaper Moyo Poberezhye

The Investigative Department in the district of Vanino, Khabarovsk Region, has suspended the probe into a criminal case following three years of efforts to reopen it.

After my appeal to the president at the 2013 news conference, which concerned high-ranking Khabarovsk Region officials, certain websites posted and continue to post slanderous and insulting stories against me. My reports to police and prosecutors did not help. How did Far Eastern law enforcement bodies explain the population's interest in the journalist, her humiliation and mud-slinging or outright slander by anonymous authors? The insults also targeted the protagonists of newspaper Moyo Poberezhye stories and reports.

“Characteristically, the heroes of Tatyana Sedykh's stories are obtuse persons”. Anonymous authors also attacked editorial staff having written that only mental people could work with the journalist. Prosecutors and police dismiss the important fact that Tatyana performs her professional duty and that her speeches or appeals to the president on behalf of the population are of public interest.

Russian legislation requires moderation of comments. The law-abiding websites delete the comments that contain slanderous, humiliating or hate-inciting remarks against social groups. IP addresses of the uses that fail to obey the law can be handed over to law enforcement bodies upon request. Vanino district prosecutors and police are oblivious to it. They fail to see the elements of crime for years on end and have no idea how to hold the culprits responsible. Foot-dragging, run-arounds and inaction might continue until the statute of limitation takes effect. Currently, it is a standard scenario for reviewing residents' reports. Editorial office personnel met with Khabarovsk Region police chief Mikhail Chernikov to ask him to respond to the statement over the persecution of the editor and disability discrimination. Chernikov assured them that he would look into the matter; soon thereafter he left for Moscow where he was promoted. He now appears on television with stories about glorious police work. Needless to say, not a single crime has been solved since 2004, including two assassination attempts.

Who in the Khabarovsk Region can help the journalist viewed by the powers-that-be as an enemy, because she stands up for ordinary residents' rights and “damages the region's reputation” with her stories? Indeed, who can help in the region where anti-corruption fighters are casino regulars and where a police officer can set up a website to bully a journalist? Back in 2014, De-Kastri village resident Lyubov Popova wrote in her letter to the prosecutor-general urging him to “put right the work of law enforcement”. Foot-dragging and run-around replies have become routine. Police often deal with residents' reports by talking to them on the phone, unable to solve cases for long months. One might get the impression that they are testing our endurance to see who is going to be the first to freak out: police, prosecutors, investigators, or ordinary residents.

Earlier this year, presidential envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District Yuri Trutnev said at a joint meeting of officials from the Prosecutor-General's Office and the Ministry for Far Eastern Development that “It is wrong to violate the rotation principle with supervisory and law-enforcement senior officials staying in office for more than a decade”. It is common knowledge that such officials develop connections over this period and risk losing their key professional qualities such as objectivity and impartiality. But who paid attention to what the presidential envoy said? Khabarovsk Region Prosecutor Vitaly Kaplunov and Deputy Prosecutor-General for the Far Eastern Federal District Yuri Gulyagin have been in office since 2006...

This digest was prepared by the Glasnost Defence Foundation in Moscow. The digest has been issued once a week, on Mondays, since August 11, 2000.

We acknowledge the assistance of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

Currently it is distributed by e-mail to 1,600 subscribers in and outside Russia.

Editorial board

  • Editor-in-chief, Alexei Simonov
  • Boris Timoshenko, Head of Monitring Service;
  • Svetlana Zemskova, GDF Lawyer;
  • Vsevolod Shelkhovskoy, translator.

We welcome the promotion of our news items and articles but if you make use of any information from this digest or other GDF materials please acknowledge the source.


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ФЗГ продолжает бороться за свое честное имя. Пройдя все необходимые инстанции отечественного правосудия, Фонд обратился в Европейский суд. Для обращения понадобилось вкратце оценить все, что Фонд сделал за 25 лет своего существования. Вот что у нас получилось:
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