The other side of the summit

ingressimage_radisson.jpg Photo: ru.indymedia.org

“Events around the summit showed how quickly the repressive mechanisms that the authorities resort to can be unleashed, and that moreover they will not always use legal measures,” said Dmitry Makarov, a member of the Legal Team group set up to provide juridical help to activists during the summit. Legal Team held a press conference on Thursday to present the results of monitoring of human-rights infringements registered during the summit.

Freedom of movement

Legal Team registered more than 100 cases in which activists heading for the Russian Social Forum in St. Petersburg were detained on trains or “met” at stations. Legal Team member Natalya Zvyagina said all these measures were part of Operation Mainline Intercept being carried out jointly by law-enforcement agencies and Russian Railways.

Those detained had their passports confiscated, were forced to sell their tickets, and even made to sign an undertaking not to travel, even though by law such declarations can only be issued with permission from the courts.

Law-enforcement officers repeatedly cited “lists of extremists.”

“It is not clear who composed these lists or how they were composed or what was done with them, but it is obvious that anyone who gave their real name when registering at the Russian Social Forum was included on it,” Makarov said.

Sanctity of private life and dwelling quarters

Legal Teams estimate show that every second participant in the social forum, which brought together various critics of the G8 at the Kirov Stadium, was subject to document checks without an explanation for the reasons.

“If activists asked what the basis was for having his or her documents checked, the police officer usually asked him or her to come to the nearest police station,” Zvyagina said.

Searches were carried out on several occasions at police stations, and “suspicious” books and documents seized.

The centre of the tyranny, activists said, was the “bad flat” of one of the activists, where guests from other towns and countries were also staying. On the eve of the summit, the police carried out an illegal raid and search of the apartment, and all those caught there were given the maximum possible arrest terms on fabricated charges. Those arrested included two students from Germany – Henning Wallerius and Eike Korfhage – as well as Swiss student Adrian Sauter. The reason for the detention of the foreigners, according to the charge sheets, was that they were urinating in an unsuitable place (the Russian activists were charged with using indecent language). All three students were sentenced to 10 days in jail, and are serving their sentences now.

Freedom of association

A tacit ban on mass meetings was enforced during the summit. Activists were refused permission to hold an anti-war protest on Konyushennaya Ulitsa, and to hold an antiglobalisation march along Nevsky Prospekt. Those who defied the ban and ventured out onto the city streets were forcefully put down.

In the overwhelming majority of cases, those arrested were presented with inappropriate charges – instead of unsanctioned actions, which is punishable by a fine, they were charged with petty hooliganism, disturbing the public order, and disobeying police officers.

Legal Team says the false accusations allowed police officers to kill two birds with one stone – to bury statistics on measures during the summit, and simultaneously to apply unjustifiably harsh measures to activists by locking them up during the summit.

Legal Team says the ratio of those arrested to those who actually took part in the actions was two to one.

“After a parade on Vasilevsky Island around 30 people were arrested, although under half of them had actually participated. However, all those detained were taken to the police station, photographed, and fingerprinted.”

The Radisson Hotel. Victims’ tales

“I never thought that in St. Petersburg, on Nevsky Prospect, that I would be thrown in jail for three days for having a camera in my hands,” said Maxim Butkevich, a journalists from Ukraine’s 1+1 television channel, who was held during a demonstration outside the Radisson SAS Hotel on Nevsky. Seeing that Butkevich was taking pictures of the demonstration being broken up, police officers ran up, grabbed him and threw him in a police bus. Butkevich was sentenced to three days detention.

Ivan Ninenko, a member of Legal Team and activist from the GROZA movement, was also arrested at the same spot for taking photos. He was officially charged with similar offences to most of those arrested – resisting a police officer. In point of fact, no resistance was made – more over, activists said, those arrested were held hand and foot in the special police cars.

The other side of the summit

“For the police and judges, the law is not written,” said Vlasta Pidpalaya, an activist from Ukraine. “We ran into aggression, the use of force, and women into attempted sexual violence, because I think that if I’m put in a bus with five 150-kilogram special-police officers it is pressure on me, since I don’t know how to defend myself in this situation.”

Court hearings took place behind closed doors, and the court building itself was ringed by a cordon of special police through which not even lawyers were allowed.

“I found out about the arrival of my client only by chance, from the radio of a police officer standing nearby,” said Legal Team’s Dmitry Makarov.

“In court, all of our evidence was rejected as irrelevant. The evidence of independent witnesses in the eyes of the court counted for much less than the charge sheets, written on carbon paper, and the word of police officers,” said Ninenko.

The verdicts, like the charge sheets, were extremely similar to each other, with only surnames changing. However, in the case of Ninenko, at one point in the charge sheet Yaroshevich – the surname of another arrested demonstrator – appears instead of his.

“Sovereign democracy”

“We noticed that when arrests were made the police officers dealt differently with those activists from former Soviet republics and those from Western Europe. We Western Europeans got treated better. Apparently, Russia wants to show itself to the West as a democratic country, while at home the authorities act without any sort of limits,” said a German student who was also arrested, unlike her fellow travellers, “for disturbing public order and obstructing traffic.”

“It seems to me that citizens of Belarus were the only ones who liked how the police treated them – no criminal cases were opened against them, and nor did they disappear for several days,” said Natalya Zvyagina.

Vera Ponomareva

vera@ecoperestroika.ru