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Linguists fail to find calls to extremism in case of Pomor man accused of inciting hatred against Russians

11 February 2013 

Source: Open Information Agency 

Photo of Ivan Moseyev (c) Ivan Moseyev

On 11 February in the Oktyabrsky district court in Arkhangelsk, where a trial into a case of inciting hatred towards the Russian ethnic group is taking place, defendant Ivan Moseyev took the stand.

He presented extrajudicial linguistic research which was 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 him. Moseyev himself announced this news to the Agora Human Rights Association.

At the previous court session on 6 February Ivan Moseyev had petitioned for the case to be returned to the prosecutor because of gross violations that occurred in bringing the charges against him. After returning to the courtroom, the judge took no decision on the petition and today continued the court session without explaining the reason, reports a correspondent for the Open Information Agency.

The study which Moseyev presented was conducted 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.

Today in court Ivan Moseyev, as he had done earlier in the petition he submitted to return the case to the public prosecutor (which has so far not been permitted) stated that the case against him lacks any concrete definition of the charges. Moseyev is being prosecuted for, according to the investigation team, "posting comments containing degrading descriptions and a clearly expressed negative and unfavourable emotional evaluation of the ethnic group ‘Russians,’ inciting public hatred towards this ethnic group." However, firstly, the charge sheet does not mention the phrase (quote) for which he is being prosecuted, and secondly, the charge does not comply with Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code, under which it is being brought.

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 "actions that are aimed at inciting hatred 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."

However, the statements attributed to Moseyev do not justify or approve "the need for the genocide, mass repression or deportations of Russians, or the use of violence or other unlawful acts against them." These words, as set out in the charges, contain at most some characterisations and evaluations, and they do not constitute a crime under Article 282 of the Criminal Code, human rights activists say.

Previously, Tatyana Sidirova, a specialist in the field of Russian language, textual 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, when questioned in court said that the controversial phrase "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." She stressed that "it was the opponents of the user POMORY who were setting the Russians against the Pomors..., the user POMORY was not creating any such opposition, even equating Pomors and Russians ("Are there really any non-Russian Pomors?").

Secondly, the expert Sidorova concluded that the humiliating nature of the word "cattle" in this context is not using the dictionary definition but is evoking an image of an "inarticulate crowd."

"Thirdly, the form of expression is at once an opinion and a forecast," said Sidorova. "On the whole, the expression under analysis is using the field of speech as a form of self- promotion (the linguistic field to contrast an inarticulate crowd with specific individuals who are fighting for their rights) in response to a threat."

Ivan Moseyev, the 47-year-old director of the Pomor Institute of Indigenous Peoples and Minorities, a research and teaching centre at the Northern (Arctic) Federal University named after M.V. Lomonosov, is accused of inciting hatred and hostility towards the ethnic group "Russians" (Part 1 of Article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). The prosecution of Moseyev is being brought by the Federal Security Service.