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In Karelia case resumes against blogger who criticised Russian Orthodox Church. Sixth expert appraisal ordered

25 January 2013 

Source: Open News Agency 

Maksim Efimov, author of blog post 'Karelia is tired of priests'. 
Photo: Maksim Efimov for Open Information Agency.

The Investigative Committee for Karelia today resumed the investigation into a criminal case of incitement to hatred and hostility on the grounds of religion against the author of the article "Karelia is tired of priests," Maksim Efimov (Yefimov). 

Today the Investigative Committee ordered another linguistic analysis of the phrases used by the human rights activist and blogger in his materials. This will be the sixth expert analysis in the Efimov case. This news was announced by the Agora Human Rights Association, which is representing the interests of the civil activist. 

Investigator with the investigation department of the Muerzersky District of the Investigation Directorate of the Russian Investigative Committee for Karelia Aleksandr Voronin put the following questions to experts from the non-profit organisation Expert Union from Nizhny Novgorod:

1) Do the materials under investigation, specifically the article "Karelia is tired of priests," posted on the website contain any appeals to action? What specifically is the author of the article calling on people to do?
2) Does the article under investigation contain... any remarks that are insulting towards a particular religious group?
3) Does the article under investigation contain... any negative descriptions of people or groups on the basis of their religion?
4) Does the article under investigation contain...a negative image of any particular religious group? If so, what means were used for this?
5) Does the article under investigation contain... any negative evaluations of any particular religious group? 

In addition, the experts will be handed the decision to order the expert evaluations, the text of the article "Karelia is tired of priests" and the criminal case materials against Efimov, which already constitutes three volumes. During the additional linguistic investigation the Investigative Committee allowed the experts to use the results of the five previous expert investigations and analyses of the criminal case, which were carried out in Nizhny Novgorod, St. Petersburg, Petrozavodsk and Rostov-on-Don, says a correspondent for the Open News Agency
As regards the additional analysis, today Efimov's representative, lawyer Olga Rybalova, filed a motion with Investigator Voronin, which examines in detail the decision to order it. 

Firstly, she says that as part of the preliminary investigation the investigator himself ordered two linguistic analyses to be carried out, and the defence also put forward three linguistic studies of their own, none of which identified any component elements of a crime having been committed. 

Secondly, the lawyer stresses that all the analyses and studies were carried out in different cities across Russia by qualified experts with the appropriate knowledge and experience. In Rybalova's opinion, there is no need to carry out another linguistic expert analysis, and ordering one "is evidence of the investigator's intention to drag out the preliminary investigation" and to halt the criminal proceedings, not on grounds of exoneration but because the statute of limitation is running out. 

"The actual questions put to the experts by the investigator merit special attention," lawyer Olga Rybalova says in her motion. "I believe that they are all in fact the same question just formulated slightly differently. They are clearly duplicates of one another. In the first part of the first question the investigator wants to know whether the article contains any calls to action. In the second part of the question he wants to know: what precisely is the author of the article calling on people to do? This is evidence of an improper approach on the part of the investigator and his desire to get the result he's after. 

The lawyer points out that the second question should be fleshed out: "Does the article under investigation contain... any remarks that are insulting towards a particular religious group or religious organisation?" The point being that there is a resolution by the Plenum of the Supreme Court "On judicial practice in criminal cases involving crimes that are extremist in nature" (No. 11 of 28 June 2011), which clearly delineates crimes against religious groups and crimes against religious organisations. 

"Actions that are aimed at inciting hatred or hostility should be understood to include, in particular, statements justifying and/or approving the need for genocide, mass repressions, deportations, the carrying out of other illegal acts, including the use of violence, against representatives of a particular ethnic group, race, or those belonging to a particular religion or other group. Criticism of political organisations, ideological or religious associations, political, ideological or religious beliefs, or ethnic or religious customs should not in itself be regarded as an action that is aimed at inciting hatred or hostility," the resolution states. 

Rybalova is convinced that the third, fourth and fifth questions put to the experts should be removed, as negative descriptions, negative image and negative evaluations do not constitute an objective view of a crime (in accordance with the requirements set out in Article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation and already mentioned above in the resolution of the Plenum of the Supreme Court). 

"A negative evaluation is the poor performance of the government, poor performance by a doctor, poor performance of an investigator etc...It is not a criminal offence," Rybalova stresses.

"Instead of fighting real crime and corruption, instead of defending the rights of citizens, the Investigative Committee of Karelia and the public prosecutor, on the orders of the FSB in Karelia, are handing out arbitrary treatment: they're hounding me, raiding my apartment, seizing my belongings, trying to put me in the psychiatric hospital," Maksim Efimov says. "They've already scoured the entire country in search of unprincipled experts who are willing to write the necessary "expert analysis" so that they can put me in jail. I cannot call this behaviour on the part of the investigators anything other than abuse of office. We've already had five expert analyses for this case. Head of the Investigative Committee for Karelia Yuri Baboido recently said that "during the course of the investigation enough evidence was collected to charge Efimov under Article 282 of the Criminal Code on "Incitement to hatred or hostility." It would appear that these dishonourable men are not convinced their case would hold up in court." 

In December 2012 it became known that the Investigative Committee for Karelia had named Efimov as a defendant on charges of inciting hatred and hostility, and insulting someone's dignity on grounds of religion (Part 1 of Article 282 of the Criminal Code). 

Estonia had earlier granted Maksim Efimov, head of the Youth Human Rights Group, refugee status based on political motives. 

Meanwhile, the trial continued on 25 January at the Oktyabrsky district court in Archangelsk of Ivan Moseyev, the 47-year-old director of the Pomor Institute of Indigenous Peoples and Minorities research and education centre at the Northern (Arctic) Federal University named after M.V. Lomonosov. Like Efimov, he is charged with inciting hatred and hostility (Part 1 of Article 282 of the Criminal Code) for comments he posted on the internet. The prosecution of Moseyev is being brought by the Federal Security Service. Lawyer and political analyst for the Agora Human Rights Association Ramil Akhmetgaliyev says that the security forces are using similar instances of criminal cases of extremism to deal with civil activist undesirables in different regions of Russia, citing as examples the cases of Maksim Efimov in Karelia and Ivan Moseyev in the Arkhangelsk Region.