Pavel Chikov on the trial of Egor Zhukov: 'Pure Farce'

posted 15 Dec 2019, 09:33 by Translation Service   [ updated 15 Dec 2019, 15:09 ]
4 December 2019

by Pavel Chikov, head of the Agora International Human Rights Association 

Source: Ekho Moskvy

The trial of Egor Zhukov is a pure farce, and the exemplar of an extremely cynical court in an extremism case. This is regardless of the punishment that will be handed down to him (although if he is actually imprisoned, the point will only be underlined).

Since 2006, when Agora began to work on criminal cases of extremism, there were many hundreds of them in the country, including dozens among the caseload of our lawyers. We managed to put a stop to the most odious practices imposed at a systemic level by the Centre for Combating Extremism, the Prosecutor’s Office, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation and even the FSB itself. The result of these efforts was the decriminalization of Article 282 of the Criminal Code, but Article 280, under which alleged offences were investigated by the FSB, was not affected. The FSB was exempt from reasonable restrictions, allowing it to continue and even ramp up its arbitrary interpretation of common sense, the Russian language and criminal law in the process. The Investigative Committee received the same exemption for cases instigated by direct instruction of the head of the Committee.

The main evidence in the prosecution of Egor Zhukov is a linguistic analysis  conducted by an FSB officer without specialist education, an academic degree, an academic position or any scholarly publications in the field of the Russian language. This expert is basically a mathematician. The court refused to question several well-known linguists with many years of experience and dozens of forensic examinations to their names.

No psychologist was involved in the analysis, which is mandatory in the case of appeals as the specialist must evaluate the words that led to one action or another; this is outside the competence of a linguist, and definitely outside that of a mathematician.

The court refused to append the opinions of the experts; in essence, it deprived the defence of the right to present evidence in a criminal case. This is expressly prohibited by law and is called a violation of the right to a defence.

The case of Egor Zhukov is, of course, exceptional. It sends a signal that young people are forbidden to criticize the authorities and call for reforms, under threat of imprisonment. It also sends the signal that no prevailing rules, restrictions, judicial and investigative practices, acceptable channels or Russian linguistic norms apply when there is a direct, blatant political order for a civic activist to be imprisoned to make an example.

Translated by Anna Bowles