Trial of 12 Hits Technical Problems
Anatoly Sokolov identified only one person on the video, saying the others were ‘blurry.’
Published: June 13, 2012 (Issue # 1712)
The Trial of Twelve, in which 12 opposition activists are on trial as “extremists” belonging to the banned National Bolshevik Party (NBP) and described as “farcical” by the defense and human rights activists, hit a new low Friday when surveillance tapes were demonstrated at the Vyborgsky District Court.
The first video of the 27 discs and 40 hours of surveillance footage recorded during the meetings of The Other Russia activists in 2009 and 2010 were shot on one poor-quality black-and-white hidden camera installed over the apartment’s door.
There was no camera in the main room, where the group’s meetings allegedly took place.
Only silhouettes of the alleged activists in the entrance hall were visible, while their words were mostly inaudible when the first video was played on a DVD player via two television sets in the courtroom.
A web camera was put in front of one of them to broadcast the video from the TV screen to a secret prosecution witness identified as Anatoly Sokolov, hidden in a separate room from the defendants, their lawyers and the public.
The defense objected to the showing of the video, arguing that the materials are not valid, because of the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights that forbids the use of evidence received as the result of a police provocation.
The defendants say — and a police document in the criminal case’s materials supports their claim — that the apartment was rented and equipped with a camera by the counter-extremism Center E agency to “create an artificial concentration of NBP members with the aim of proving their criminal activities,” and then was offered to them for meetings by Mikhail Sazonov, an undercover Center E agent.
Sazonov, the second secret witness in the trial, was unable to attend the hearing, according to Judge Yury Yakovlev.
Public prosecutor Nadezhda Filimonova requested that Sokolov — described as a former NBP member who grew disillusioned with the party and started to collaborate with law enforcers — identify the people on the video, which was allegedly shot on Oct. 4, 2009. He identified only one as Vladislav Ivakhnik, saying that the other people on the video were “blurry.”
When asked by The Other Russia local leader Andrei Dmitriyev’s lawyer Gleb Lavrentyev by what features he identified Ivakhnik, Sokolov — whose voice was altered by an electronic device — replied that he did so by his haircut, the way he dressed and walked and by his face. The activist was however shown from behind as he entered the apartment, and only his silhouette was discernable.
Watching further, the prosecutor pointed to a moment when a black NBP flag was allegedly brought by an activist, but at the request of the defense, the courtroom clerk documented that only a dark piece of cloth could be seen, with no image or letters detectable on it.
The defense also pointed out that the video had no time code and asked the judge to check the properties of the file.
Despite the protests of the prosecutor, who argued that the video had been obtained during an undercover criminal investigation which made the file properties a state secret, the defense said that the evidence should be examined in the courtroom and the disc was passed to the judge’s assistants.
One assistant said that her computer failed to read the disc and passed it to the other who checked it and said that the file had “no properties.”
Because of Sokolov’s continuing failure to identify people by their appearance or voices on the video, the prosecutor asked for one of the two television sets to be carried into Sokolov’s room, but the courtroom staff failed to do so within the 30-minute break given by the judge for this purpose.
Eventually the judge closed the session, saying that he would “try to organize everything in the right way” by the next session due on Friday, June 15.