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In Arkhangelsk Pomor man appeals conviction for insulting dignity of Russians

11 March 2013

Source: Open Information Agency 

Defence counsel of civic activist Ivan Moseev is asking that he be cleared of all charges. Ivan Moseev, 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 has appealed against the ruling by the Oktyabrsky district court in Arkhangelsk , which found him guilty of insulting the dignity of the ethnic group Russians and sentenced him to a fine of 100,000 roubles.

Ivan Moseev’s defence is asking the Arkhangelsk Region Court to quash the guilty verdict and acquit him, says lawyer and legal analyst for the Agora Human Rights Association Ramil Akhmetgaliyev, who together with lawyer Veniamin Belovy is representing the interests of Moseev.

Ivan Moseev’s defence is convinced that in delivering its verdict the court committed substantial violations of material and procedural law. Lawyer Akhmetgaliyev says that the verdict was based on inadmissible evidence: "The main evidence in the case, the findings of an expert, were obtained in violation of the existing legislation and cannot form the basis for the verdict. Firstly, the expert findings themselves are contradictory and inconsistent. Secondly, the expert overstepped their authority in responding to legal questions."

The Plenum of the Supreme Court of Russia in its resolution "On Judicial Practice in Criminal Cases Involving Crimes of Extremism" of 28 June 2011, clearly states that "experts may not be asked questions about whether a text contains calls to extremist actions, or whether information materials are aimed at inciting hatred or hostility." The same Supreme Court Plenum resolution also states that: "Questions about the public nature of appeals should be decided by the courts." Furthermore, the Supreme Court Plenum resolution On Judicial Expertise in Criminal Cases (No. 28 of 21 December 2010) stresses: "Questions put to experts and their responses to them may not overstep the bounds of their specialist knowledge."

The descriptive part of the verdict should contain a description of the offences (Article 307 of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation). Lawyer Akhmetgaliyev says that in Moseev's case there is no mention in the verdict of the actual phrase which the court considered to be insulting to people's dignity.

The defence notes that the verdict was delivered on the basis of assumptions: "There is no evidence to show that it was Ivan Moseev who used his personal computer to go online and post the comments. The evidence here is dubious and there is reason to believe that it has been falsified."

Finally, lawyer Ramil Akhmetgaliyev says that the prosecution of Ivan Moseev is selective and was ordered. In particular, the defence points out that on the same website and in the same article where the comments attributed to Moseev were posted, comments by other users have also been published which, in particular, propose putting Pomors "up against the wall." The law enforcement authorities have declined to instigate criminal proceedings in relation to these comments, which is documented in the materials for Moseev's case.

"So it turns out that a comment which mentions the word "cattle" is deemed extremist, while calls to execute "fictional Pomors" in other comments are lawful expressions of people's personal opinions?!" says lawyer Ramil Akhmetgaliyev in the appeal to the Arkhangelsk Region Court. "These facts from the case materials show that from the very start the investigative bodies have not been engaged in identifying and suppressing a crime, but have purposefully and selectively been carrying out an "operation" on Ivan Moseev, who is actively involved in civil activities. In view of this, the court should have closely and carefully examined every piece of evidence presented by the prosecution. The court effectively limited itself to accepting on faith everything the prosecution presented.

In the trial at the regional court the state prosecutor did not present any evidence in support of the charge of inciting hatred towards the ethnic group Russians and asked only for the accused to be sentenced to a fine for insulting the dignity of this ethnic group.

At the trial Ivan Moseev’s defence presented extrajudicial linguistic research carried out by specialists at the Lobachevsky Nizhegorodsky State University, who, like an expert from the Northern (Arctic) Federal University in a previous study, found no evidence of "incitement to discrimination against citizens on the basis of their ethnicity" in the phrase attributed to Moseyev.

The study was carried out by Elizaveta Koltunova, a member of the Guild of Linguistic Experts on Documentary and Information Disputes, PhD in Linguistics, associate professor at the linguistics faculty of the Lobachevsky Nizhegorodsky State University, and Professor at the International Slavic Academy, with over 35 years' experience and 15 years' experience as an expert, and Timur Radbil, PhD in Linguistics, Professor at the Faculty of Contemporary Russian Language at Nizhegorodsky State University, with over 20 years' experience.

The experts came to the conclusion that the words for which Moseyev is being prosecuted, ""What are you doing to us? You are millions of cattle while there are only 2,000 of us," "do not contain any verbal means supporting the rationale or justifying the need for genocide, mass repression, deportations or other illegal acts, including the use of illegitimate violence, against a particular ethnic group."

The linguists said that there were no statements in the materials "containing any rationale or justification for the need to violate the rights, freedoms or legal interests of an individual or citizen on the basis of their nationality or ethnicity."

Elizaveta Koltunova and Timur Radbil concluded that "the comment 'What are you doing to us? You are millions of cattle while there are only 2,000 of us" did not contain any calls to discriminate against people on the basis of their ethnicity.

When earlier questioned in court, Tatyana Sidirova, a specialist in the field of Russian language, text linguistics, verbal conflict resolution studies and legal linguistics, PhD in linguistics, professor at the faculty of Russian language and verbal culture at the Institute of Linguistics and Intercultural Communication at the Northern (Arctic) Federal University named after Lomonosov, who has over 40 years' experience, including 20 as an expert, said that the phrase at the centre of the dispute "What are you doing to us? You are millions of cattle while there are only 2,000 of us," for which Moseyev is being prosecuted, contained "no indication of any well-known nationalities or races," and that "the millions could be any people."