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On the case of Lyudmila Bogatenkova (17.10.2014) (Dozhd TV)

posted 29 Oct 2014, 13:37 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 29 Oct 2014, 13:44 ]

17 October 2014

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group

Original source: Rain TV, 19 October 2014 

The head of the Budennovsk Committee of Soldiers Mothers, Lyudmila Bogatenkova, has been transferred to a pre-trial detention centre in Pyatigorsk. In August, the human rights activist had passed evidence of the deaths of soldiers serving under contract in the 18th Motorised Brigade to the Presidential Human Rights Council (HRC). Council members then sent an online request for a criminal investigation into the case to the Chief Military Department of the Investigative Committee. They received no reply. On October 14, the list of names of soldiers were handed over to President Vladimir Putin in person. On Friday Bogatenkova was charged with large-scale fraud. Colleagues working with Lyudmila in her human rights advocacy linked the arrest directly with her investigations.

Lyudmila Bogatenkova's health is of great concern. The human rights defender is 73 years old, an invalid of the 2nd group. She is a diabetic and suffers from heart problems. Yesterday, the day of the ruling refusing bail, an ambulance had to be called several times. Members of the Human Rights Council stated that they intend to demand that the Investigative Committee explains its reasons for holding Bogatenkova in custody. Dozhd TV spoke about the case with Sergei Kryvenko, who is a member of the Human Rights Council and chair of the Council’s permanent commission on military-civil relations, coordinator of the civil initiative 'Civilian and Army' and member of the Moscow Helsinki Group.

Lobkov: A far as I understand, Mrs. Bogatenkova does not engage in big business. How have the charges against her been formulated?

Kryvenko: Unfortunately, the text of the charges has not yet been forwarded to us. Just last night, in court the charges were presented against her, and they were in terms of Article 159, Section 3 – ‘large-scale fraud’, which raises many questions. Lyudmila Bogatenkova is not the head of some large firm or companies. As far as I know, she was not employed by any commercial firm. She led the civil society organization "Mothers of Prikumye region", which is a prominent human rights organization and has existed for a very long time. In this position, I have known her for more than 10 years. She constantly visited the military units and huge amounts of requests from soldiers were sent to her from military service personnel, those serving on contracts, conscripts and officers.

Lobkov: Equally surprising is the fact is that in recent years, at least, after former president Medvedev's reforms, pre-trial detention for fraud has become far less common. More often, house arrest or a travel ban is imposed on the suspect. Do you consider the fact that the toughest measures have been chosen an indication that something else is behind this?

Kryvenko: Something is not quite right. The Criminal Procedure Code has a special amendment, according to which a pretrial detention is not imposed if the charges concern commercial or business interests. But since Bogatenkova did not have any business, this amendment was unfortunately not applicable. Of course there are very serious questions to be asked why a sick and elderly woman is put in jail for a crime which doesn't pose a threat to society or the state. I definitely see this as retribution for her past actions, her human rights work and for publishing the soldiers’ deaths. Just one week before these events, she raised attention to the fact that contract soldiers had approached her and told her they refused to go to certain military training camps in Rostov region. And that because of these refusals their contracts are being torn up on false pretences.

Lobkov: Do you intend to publish on the website of the Human Rights Council copies of the documents which Ludmila Bogatenkova gave you as well as president Putin?

Kryvenko: She passed us lists of servicemen, at least, a first list containing nine names. In August, the list was sent to the Investigative Committee, the Military Prosecutor's Office, the military command of the Ministry of Defence and has now been submitted to the president. By the way, it has already been published on TV Rain’s website.

Lobkov: Yes, but I mean complete documentation.

Kryvenko: There is nothing more. We only have a small amount of these documents. We, as a human rights organization, have no opportunity to thoroughly carry out an investigation outselves, so we ask those investigative agencies which have the authority, firstly, to confirm or to deny the fact of the soldiers’ deaths of which no medical records exist, and secondly - to hold thorough investigations into the circumstances of those deaths.

Lobkov: If even one believes the charges, Bogatenkova could not collect enough money to afford a private lawyer and she refused a state attorney. Does the Human Rights Council intend to provide her with an attorney who may need to come from Moscow and will be sufficiently qualified to defend her interests?

Kryvenko: The Human Rights Council is not a state body, we are members of the Council as civil society activists. We have no budget whatsoever, thus the Council won’t be able to arrange a lawyer. But there are a number of Council members who work in legal programmes or who have the possibility to arrange a lawyer…

Lobkov: I just want to note that many of the Council members are legal experts and lawyers.

Kryvenko: Yes, and they have already announced their willingness to help.

Lobkov: Who? Could you give some names?

Kryvenko: At least the chair of the human rights organisation Agora, Pavel Chikov, has declared that he is ready to help find a lawyer.

Lobkov: How do you intend to attract public attention? You already have the attention of the president. And we will probably find out how it will end.

Kryvenko: We will involve the public by posting information on the progress of the investigation and on the progress of the case on the website of the Council. We plan in the near future to organize a trip in Pyatigorsk to meet with Lyudmila, see the conditions in which she is held and see about the state of her health. Naturally, this information will be widely disseminated. Of course we will make sure to disseminate our findings widely.

Lobkov: Sergei, what do you think, on which level was the decision to bring these charges taken? Was it on a regional level or, let's say, on the level of the presidential administration?

Kryvenko: You know, there is absolutely no information. It could be the one or the other. She worked a lot in Stavropol region and in parts of the Southern Military District, the commanders got fed up with seeing her, you could say, although she maintained strong working relations precisely with the commanders of the Southern Military District. A year ago we held a meeting with the command of the Southern Military District at which Lyudmila Bogatenkova was present on issues of military medical provision, and no questions at all were raised at the time. For now I don’t want to say…I have no information about who could have ordered her detention. But that it must have been ordered, that is quite clear to me. There is a good analogy with the case of Major Matveev, by the way. If you remember, some years ago there was this fighter for the justice in the Eastern Military District…

Lobkov: And what happened to the environmentalists in Sochi, such as Evgeny Vitishko and others. It is much the same story.

Kryvenko: People are being persecuted and torn from their lives, so that they can’t carry out their human rights work.

Source: Rain TV, 19 October 2014

Translated by Eva Cukier
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