Evidence Called Into Question, Excluded From Trial
Published: August 15, 2012 (Issue # 1722)
St. Petersburg ombudsman Alexander Shishlov showed interest in the high-profile trial of 12 opposition activists accused of organizing and participating in “extremist activities of a banned organization,” which was attended by his assistant, Andrei Tolmachyov, for the first time last week.
Defense and rights organizations believe that the criminal prosecution of the activists was launched on purely political grounds, without any actual crime having been committed.
On Friday, the judge summoned a technical specialist and an investigator to attend the next court session after the defense motioned to exclude half of the secret video surveillance recordings from the case.
Defendant Igor Boikov’s lawyer, Ivan Bulgakov, motioned to exclude 14 discs from the case as inadmissible evidence due to the fact that there were no reliable dates on the footage.
He said that the court had given counter-extremism Center “E” permission to conduct secret video surveillance for the period of 180 days starting July 1, 2009 at the apartment where the activists held their meetings, but it was impossible to determine when the videos presented by the prosecution were actually made.
The dates were written in pencil on the discs’ envelopes by an investigator, while the file information recorded the default date of “January 1, 2006” for all of the videos checked.
Andrei Pesotsky’s lawyer, Sergei Golubok, pointed out that no document provided by the prosecution identified the discs by their factory numbers.
“There is no reliable data confirming when the recording was made,” Golubok said.
“We’re not saying that it was made in 2006. We are saying, ‘It’s chaos, a mess, it’s not clear when it was made.’ Once it’s not clear when it was made, doubt arises, and doubt in a criminal trial should be interpreted in favor of the defendants.”
Judge Sergei Yakovlev ordered an investigator and a technical specialist be summoned to explain the situation.
He also excluded a printout from a website as it violated the law. The judge agreed with Golubok’s motion to qualify the piece of evidence as inadmissible.
The page was simply printed out by an investigator and added to one of the case’s 15 volumes without any legal procedures being conducted or corresponding documentation.
“Its contents are absolutely innocent, but if we allow dubious printouts that we don’t know where they were taken from to be added to the case, we can forget about the code of criminal procedure,” Golubok said.
Both acts are seen as the court’s first concessions to the defense, whose motions have been mostly declined during the trial of the activists of The Other Russia opposition party, which opened on April 24.
As the prosecution has almost finished presenting evidence, defense witnesses are likely to start testifying this week.
The Other Russia’s local chair and one of main defendants, Andrei Dmitriyev, said that the activists will have dissident author Eduard Limonov, former world chess champion and oppositionist Garry Kasparov and anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny come to St. Petersburg to testify on their behalf.