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Marat Gelman responds in court to lawsuit brought by Vasily Yakemenko, head of the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs

posted 22 Jul 2011, 09:48 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 22 Jul 2011, 13:45 ]
13 July 2011

Today the hearing began at Moscow’s Savelovsky district of the lawsuit brought by Vasily Yakemenko against the well-known gallery owner and art collector Marat Gelman and the Internet publication Damir Gainutdinov, a lawyer with Agora Human Rights Association, is representing Marat Gelman and spoke to Open Information Agency during a break in the hearing.

Head of the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs, Vasily Yakemenko, said statements by Marat Gelman on Twitter and LiveJournal about him were inaccurate and defamatory. Marat Gelman wrote that he considers Vasily Yakemenko to have been behind the attempt on the life of Kommersant journalist Oleg Kashin: “Let me state my version of events: it was Vasya Yakemenko who ordered the attack.”

“Today we put forward our objections to the suit brought by the head of the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs,” lawyer Damir Gainutdinov told Open Information Agency. “The position taken by the European Court of Human Rights and the Supreme Court of Russia in such cases is unambiguous: you can ask that a fact be proved, but in no way can you do the same for a personal opinion. The statement that Yakemenko is contesting is an expression of a subjective evaluative opinion by Gelman about the investigation into a serious crime. The plaintiff demands a retraction. However a retraction of the words “I think that…” will sound like “I do not think that…” In other words it will be forcing the defendant to deny his own opinion and conviction, which is directly and unequivocally forbidden by the Russian Constitution.

Also Damir Gainutdinov, arguing that there were no grounds for Yakemenko’s lawsuit, pointed out that Marat Gelman had expressed his opinion on a matter of significant public interest. The European Court of Human Rights has regularly underlined that there is little possibility to limit political expression or debate on matters of public interest.

Damir Gainutdinov stressed that the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms protects not only the content of statements, but also their form. A communication on Twitter which cannot exceed 140 symbols, and also a blog, are special forms of communication and expression of opinion. A post in a blog, like a communication on Twitter, is of necessity brief. In fact, as a response, it might not contain a detailed explanation of the position taken, complex argumentation or references to sources.

“If this lawsuit is successul, it will be an unlawful limitation on freedom of speech, and also will unlawfully force Marat Gelman to retract his opinion,” Damir Gainutdinov concluded, “and consequently we have asked the court to dismiss this lawsuit.”

In another move before the break in the hearing, the court requested that a linguistic analysis be made of Marat Gelman’s statements. Now the sides are preparing their versions of questions for experts and proposals as to selection of experts. The hearing of the lawsuit brought by Vasily Yakemenko against Marat Gelman continues at Moscow’s Savelovsky district court.

It will be recalled that on 21 June Moscow’s Khamovniky district court dismissed a similar lawsuit brought by Vasily Yakemenko against Oleg Kashin himself, the journalist Aleksandr Morozov and the newspaper Novye izvestiya.