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Don’t Play With Sharks – OpEd

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The shark-like ways of the authorities in our country have long been known. There are myriad examples and it is enough to recall the recent affair with “Baikal Finance Group” or the not so recent affair in Krasnenskaya Rechka…

To avoid any undesirable outcome it would be best of all to totally circumvent the authorities and their dodgy dealings. Indeed, we all know the simple and unsophisticated rule – never play with strangers, but it seems we often forget another rule- never play with sharks, whether they are known to us or not . Especially, with western partners of our authorities. Especially, when its seems that there are solid takings on the ground.

In fact,this new rule is called for by the author of the fresh and original movement “Against All”, the poet and publicist Dimitry Bykov. He writes: “They play without rules- however in the best tradition of court ethics, all the rest are constrained to a Jesuitical systems of limits. The winner of the December and March elections is predetermined….”

 

Sharks have their own laws – those of the criminal world. But criminal sharks differ from sharks in the disguise of government officials, as they do not dress up as good men, as presidents, as prime ministers, as deputies.  In this manner, criminal sharks are more honest than those in parliament.

I believe that the time has come to turn to citizens with an appeal to not play with sharks – nowhere, no how. Ignore the elections? Fine. But there are other platforms from which we can ignore. For example, legal sanctions.

This idea – to appeal to all people of sound mind to boycott Russian authorities on all possible levels when they don’t follow their own rules and laws- has been around a long time. The originator of the idea is the editor of the newspaper “Dossier on Censorship” Naum Nim- most likely the first who turned his attention to the fact that the number of unlawful pursuits of people under a variety of pretences had reached critical mass. As we have had colleagues who have experience of opposition to the judicial and prison systems, we decided to bring forth this appeal.

In the Russia of today, a person who has fallen into the hands of law enforcement agencies and judicial authorities does not even have the theoretical possibility of openly and lawfully protesting his innocence during the investigation and in court. There are two outcomes: either the innocent person, after being unlawfully sentenced, goes to jail, or he flees the country. The number of those who have left the country grows every year. But even escaping injust and unlawful punishment, they will spend the rest of their life under the sword of Damacles, in the uncertainty of extradition , as foreign courts and politicians are not always able to correctly judge the validity of the demands from the Russian justice system.

I have managed to get in touch with an expert from a Canadian court, who is at the moment proving the likelihood of reprisals on somebody who is wanted for extradition. One of the arguments against the extradition is that in Russia there are no fair and impartial courts, which means that a person extradited back there is doomed to suffer reprisals.

We all remember the trial in Moscow’s Khamovnichesky court of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev on charges of misappropriation of “all the oil, extracted by Yukos”. However, this deed was the subject of another court trial, and on the 16th May 2005, the Meshshansky court found Lebedev-Khodorkovsky guilty. According to this sentence, the government recovered taxes on all the oil extracted by Yukos. The court didn’t take into consideration the genuine net income, from the sale of the oil minus the normal outlays conneected with the activities of a company.They looked at all monies collected from sale as gross income from which they exacted taxes, fully bankrupting the most successful company in the country.

Lets leave to the side for a moment all questions of political motivations of the judicial trial in 2005. Lets also leave aside the interminable argument of defenders of the Yukos owners – those who spoke at the trial in 2005 and those who hid in the back.

The most important for us is that in 2005 , protected by the judicial decision, the government collected from Yukos that share of income , which they themselves defined as legitimate.

In the second trial the prosecutors claimed that the owners of Yukos had misappropriated all the oil (the same oil fromwhich the government had exacted their share of income -calculated from the highest possible price). In fact, this was the previous charges in an updated form. But everyone knows that a person cannot be charged for the same crime twice. This is a basic foundation of law.

There is no foundation – there is no law.

This was precisely what the second trial of the Yukos owners showed : that in this country, in place the institution of justice there is institution of violence. In the absence of government orders, it can fulfil the role of justice, and occasionally it may even bring someone to justice but at governmental behest it returns to its basic function- an instrument of reprisal.

Even a guilty person should never be extradited towards reprisal- no matter how awful the crime imputed to him is reprisal is even worse- it is supposedly judicial, but in reality it is pure illegality.

In Russian society today there is not a force capable of changing the situation and returning the country to honest justice.

Therefore, we turn to the citizens of other countries for help- to those who live in a more peaceful and safe world.

− Your governments are hypocritical, pretending that they believe that rule of law reigns in Russia
− Only an outright denial of countries to recognise judicial violence in Russia can change the system here
− Demand from your government that they, at the very least temporarily, boycott ( introduce a moratorium) all legal agreements with Russia on extradited people, against whom Russian law enforcement agencies are bringing criminal cases.

Nobody should ever be extradited back to Russia under the guise of justice.

By helping us, you protect yourself ( at least from the hypocrisy of politicians).

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Grigory Pasko

Grigory Pasko is a Russian journalist and publisher of an environmental magazine. In November 1997 Pasko was arrested by FSB agents in Vladivostok and accused of espionage for publications on the environmental problems in the Japanese sea but found not guilty due to lack of evidence. He was found guilty of “abuse of his official position,” but released immediately under a general amnesty. He was recognized as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. His articles appear at Robert Amsterdam's website (http://www.robertamsterdam.com) and are reprinted with permission.

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