Human Rights Council Slams Trial of the 12
Published: June 6, 2012 (Issue # 1711)
The second secret witness provided by the prosecution for the Trial of Twelve provoked questions concerning his identity and evidence at the Vyborgsky District Court on Friday.
A group of The Other Russia opposition party activists are on trial for allegedly continuing the activities of the National Bolshevik Party (NBP), which was banned as extremist by a Moscow City Court in 2007.
The witness, introduced as Anatoly Sokolov by Prosecutor Nadezhda Filimonova, claimed he was an NBP activist. Like the undercover police agent presented as Mikhail Sazonov during the May 29 session, he spoke hidden from the defendants in a separate room using an electronic device that altered his voice.
As with Sazonov, Judge Yury Yakovlev dismissed the main defendant Andrei Dmitriyev’s request for evidence that the person under interrogation was actually Sokolov and not another person. When Sokolov was asked whether he acted under a different name as an NBP activist, this question was also dismissed as referring to the witness’ identity and as such compromising his safety.
Yakovlev also allowed Sokolov not to answer Dmitriyev’s question about whether the witness cooperates with the police on a freelance basis. After a brief argument, however, Sokolov replied that he was a “one-time witness.”
Sokolov refused to answer whether or not he recognized any of the names of the officers from the counter-extremism Center E, the agency that launched the criminal case against the activists. He confirmed the charges that the group was acting as the NBP when he joined in May 2009, motivated by his “disagreement with some of our government policies.”
The defendants argue that they acted as activists of The Other Russia coalition, and then as activists of The Other Russia party when its local branch was launched in 2010.
However, Sokolov appeared confused when asked about details such as dates. He said he was present at The Other Russia’s opening conference but failed to say specifically where or when it took place.
“It was in a hotel near some square,” he said about the event, which took place at the Angleterre Hotel near St. Isaac’s Square in downtown St. Petersburg in October 2010.
During the session, he was no longer sure that he had joined the group “in May 2009,” as he testified during the investigation, and said that it may have been in 2008.
He failed to say how long he had attended the group’s meetings for, answering most questions asked by the defense with “I don’t remember,” “I find it difficult to reply” or “I don’t want to answer this question.”
Unlike Sazonov, Sokolov said that banned NBP paraphernalia was not used during Strategy 31 rallies. He said the activists discussed “resisting the authorities” at their meetings, but not “attacking anybody,” and did not voice any “calls for violence.”
“Nothing particularly illegal was said or planned at the meetings,” he said.
Sokolov said he became a police informant after being approached during a protest by officers, who invited him to “watch video materials, look at photographs and give comments.” He said he agreed because his attitude toward the group had by that time grown “negative.”
According to Dmitriyev’s lawyer, Gleb Lavrentyev, secret witnesses are usually used for organized crime-related cases, but they are made secret during the investigation, rather than during the trial, he said.
“There’s no new information that he is now in some sort of danger, everything is based on his unsubstantiated claims that he is concerned about his security,” Lavrentyev said. “Why wasn’t he before?”
Despite the flawed testimony provided by prosecution witnesses, Lavrentyev said he was not hopeful about the trial’s outcome.
“The outlook is not good because the trial is being held in the Russian Federation, in a Russian court, where the percentage of acquittals in cases heard without a jury is very small,” Lavrentyev said.
“The only thing is that many witnesses have contradicted themselves in their evidence and failed to remember things, which is an advantage. But I wouldn’t raise anybody’s hopes, because judges’ objectives include resolving contradictions that emerge in a courtroom in favor of the prosecution.
“I’m not ruling out that the sentence will be based on the evidence [the witnesses] gave during the investigation, but it’s clear that this evidence didn’t come from them. [The judge having to choose which evidence to believe] is technically what should happen, but in reality it is a mockery [of justice].”
The St. Petersburg Human Rights Council has criticized the legal proceedings against the activists as being “beyond the scope of common sense.”
“With every next hearing, the trial increasingly resembles Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ and strengthens our conviction that no real proof is needed for the criminal prosecution of the regime’s political opponents — it is made up,” it said in a statement Tuesday.