On 18th October, lenta.ru news service transmitted that judge Olga Koloverova refused to sentence the defendants in the so-called "Antifa-RASH" case in Nizhni Novgorod. The judge demanded that police re-investigate the case, in order to exclude contradictions, which are currently obvious.
According to the prosecution, participators of the extremist society "Antifa-RASH" planned to overthrow constitutional order and to establish anarchy. According to defendants, this is a fictional organisation made out by the political police force "E center", and it never existed.
Three persons were accused in the court - Pavel Krivonosov, Dmitri Kolesov and Oleg Gembaruk. Besides these, Albert Gaynutdinov and Artyom Bystrov are suspects, they are under arrest warrant and their current location is unknown. All accused claim that they hardly knew each other before the case.
According to prosecution, Albert Gaynutdinov set up an extremist society alone, and then recruited others. Activists of the organisation planned to attack against "social groups of well-off citizens" and "skinhead football hooligans". Prosecution did not provided a single expertise, according to which such social groups exist in the sense, which is required by Russian anti-extremist laws, which are sanctioning first of all "instigating hatred against national, religious or social groups".
Three violent incidents were included by the prosecution. According to them, Krivonosov and Bystrov attacked football hooligan Sergey Aleksin and his girlfriend. Kolesov, Gembaruk, Gaynutdinov and Bystrov is claimed to have assaulted Dmitry Redkin. Gaynutdinov is accused of having assaulted Oleg Kalinin.
Assaults were reported to police by the victims several months after the attacks took place. According to defense, testimony was due to pressure from "Center E". Acquintance of Redkin gave testimony, that his testimony was dictated by police in a car, when he was accompanied to interrogation. Krivonosov denies that he has committed any crime. According to him, he was in another part of the town when Aleksin and his girlfriend were beaten up. Gembaruk and Kolesov admitted that they had fought with Redkin, but they claimed that assault had no political motivations.
Each accused denies having been a member of the "Antifa-RASH". During searches, membership tickets of the organisation were found in appartments of all of the accused (with exception of Kolesov), but defendants claim that these tickets were planted by police. Dmitri Dinze, lawyer in side of the defense, requested and investigation if these tickets were printed in local police station, but his request was denied during the court proceedings.
Main witness of the prosecution Aleksandr Chernyi withdrew his testimony in the court. He said, that he gave testimony under pressure of the police. Investigator told in the court that Chernyi came to interrogation alone, but could not explain how Chernyi could have bypassed the security in the building on his own. Chernyi claimed, that he was taken to interrogation by police.
During the hearings, lawyers of the defendants pointed out a number of contradictions in the case. According to Dinze, there is a decision of the supreme court of Russian Federation, according to which an extremist organisation may not be established by a single person, but according to investigation, Gaynutdinov established the organisation alone.
Also, in materials, name of the organisation is written with a mistake - "Red anarhia skinheads". According to Dinze, anti-fascists could not have committed such a mistake, if organisation existed. Also, investigation failed to establish when exactly the extremist organisation was established, and is it still being active.
According to Dmitri Dinze, decision of judge Olga Koloverova relied to closing statements of the defense lawyers. According to Dinze, judge gave a sort of a judgement of Solomon: accused were not sentenced but charges were also not dropped. And "responsibility to sort out this mess was passed to those authorities, who made the mess in the first place".
Prosecutor demanded 5 years for Krivonosov, 4 years for Kolesinov, and for Gembaruk a fine of 20 000 rubles and 3 years of prison. Now, investigation may either halt investigation, drop the case, or return the case to court. According to Dinze, it is most likely that the case will simply be buried for good.
Background of the Nizhni Novgorod Victory
In Russian mainstream media, turn of the Nizhni Novgorod was handled with little revealing headlines - "Case of Nizhni Novgorod anti-fascists was returned to investigators". Thus few understood, that as a matter of fact this was perhaps the sweetest victory of Russian anti-fascist movement this year, this far.
It is very unlikely, that the case will return to court one more time. As it usually happens, judge was not brave enough to point out the criminal deeds of police. Most likely the case will be quietly buried during the new investigation. And nobody will be responsibility for the torment and uncertainty, to which accused have been subjected during last one and half years. And to which they will be subjected for undefined period of time still, especially those two who were forced to go underground and to leave their hometown.
But even still, I consider this as an exceptionally sweet victory. Because it was almost impossible to mobilise people behind this campaign. It is one thing to work under framework like the Khimki struggle, or when an anti-fascist everyone know, such as Alexey Olesinov, is being accused. It is a whole another thing to defend people from a provincial town, of whom almost nobody knows, and who are not jailed due to their participant to a significant protest movement, but merely because state wants to destroy any smallest resistance whatsoever.
I would not say that movement for Khimki hostages was a mass movement, but at least there was some movement, I never felt like like nobody cared. But for Nizhni Novgorod comrades, even in Moscow our march could only gather around 15 people. In autumn of 2011 it was already obvious, that it made no sense to announce yet another "days of action", and we had to concentrate to spreading information and to fundraising.
And it became the costliest case during the 9 year history of the Anarchist Black Cross of Moscow. Even though it was obvious also for the liberal human rights activists that the case was a straight up frameup, "Agora" human rights association did not provided a lawyer. Only they know the reasons, but I suppose they simply did not have money at that point. Savings of local Nizhni Novgorod activists were exhausted after first half years of the investigation. They managed to work hardly to gather some meager means after that, for which they should be held in esteem - at times it happens, that accused fall down to a total apathy during investigations. Eventually, when all the money was exhausted, Union of Political Prisoners, Memorial and Agora all contributed to travelling costs of the lawyers. But ABC Moscow ended up spending more, than all of these organisations altogether. We spent money money from our own fund, but also helped to transfer money from benefit events organised abroad, for example in Bruxelles and London.
This was the first time during history of our group, when we had such a responsibility. Before, we always preferred to supporting "many but little" to "few but lot". Around five years ago, we usually contributed hundred euros to a case. In all of the cases we were working on before Nizhni Novgorod, main brunt of the costs was on relatives and friends of the accused - we could contribute just a very small share.
We decided to pay Dmitry Dinze for Pavel Krivonosov, because Krivonosov was accused with the "extremist clause" from the beginning, and differently from Bystrov, who had a family acquintance lawyer, Krivonosov had only an official state lawyer during the first half years.
Other two accused, who were staying in Nizhni Novgorod, were giving testimony and demoralised, thus we concentrated to supporting Krivonosov and Bystrov.
Dmitry is a famous lawyer, who had success for example in defending members of the Voyna-art group. It was not an easy decision to get Dinze involved - he is way more expensive than a provincial lawyer, his method demands a plenty of expertise which all cost money, and each of his travels to Nizhni Novgorod costed some serious money - and as the case got prolonged, travelling costs were mounting. And it was obvious, that if we select Dinze for Krivonosov, we would not have enough money to change lawyer of Bystrov if it was necessary. But in the end, family acquintance lawyer was much more better than such lawyers usually are. And it was definitely a right decision to pick Dinze, it was much due to his efforts that the case collapsed in the court.
Nizhni Novgorod is not Moscow, nor St. Petersburg, and we were afraid that it is a truly wild perifery, in which judges are completely controlled by police force and other local authorities, and the whole rotten system works faultlessly in order to jail whomever authorities want to jail. But it turned out it was not like that - most outrageous juridicial miscarriage is yet not possible in Nizhni Novgorod, or at least not always.
It is often sad, how people consider lawyers to be ultimate saviours. How people are only counting on their lawyers, fulfilling blindly even most stupid advice, such as to be low key, even when it is obviously a political case. But the case in Nizhni is a practical example, that a good lawyer may do a lot, even when there is no momentum to build a strong movement on a national or international level around a political case. Of course it is more empowering to win through a mass movement and pressure from below, but any kind of victory is better than a defeat.
(previous articles on topic: https://avtonom.org/en/nn)