Grigory Pasko: Political Prisoners in Today’s Russia – Platon Lebedev

Political Prisoners in Today’s Russia: Platon Lebedev By Grigory Pasko, journalist lebedev.jpg Ex-head of the YUKOS oil company Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested on 25 October 2003, while head of MFO «MENATEP» Platon Lebedev had been arrested four months earlier. Court hearings began on 23 June 2004. The Procuracy-General of the RF charged them under a total of 7 Articles of the Criminal Code of the RF, including of tax evasion and misappropriation by way of fraud of a 20-percent block of shares in the enterprise «Apatit» in a sum of over 283 million dollars. On 31 May 2005, after a 12-day reading of the verdict, the court sentenced Khodorkovsky and Lebedev to nine years of deprivation of liberty each. After the issuance of the guilty verdict, the defence appealed it in cassational order. The Moscow City Court, having examined the complaint of the lawyers of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, reduced the term of confinement for them to 8 years. On 22 September 2004, the verdict of the Meshchansky Court entered into force. Platon Lebedev was born on 29 November 1956 in Moscow. In 1981, he graduated from the Russian Economic Academy named after G.V. Plekhanov with a degree in “industrial economics”. He is married, and the father of four children. On 19 July 2003, Russian human rights advocates made an announcement “On the gross violation of the law with respect to employees of the YUKOS company and their defenders”. The announcement spoke, in particular, about how Lebedev had been arrested right on a hospital bed; about the refusal to render Lebedev medical assistance; about the demonstrative search of the office of Lebedev’s lawyer Anton Drel; about the nine-year-old charges, and so forth. In violation of Article 73 of the Penal Code of Russia, the ill Lebedev was sent beyond the Arctic Circle to serve his term of punishment, to a penal colony of the settlement of Kharp of the Yamalo-Nenetsk Autonomous Okrug. Lebedev’s lawyers addressed a complaint to the Procuracy-General of the RF and the Federal Service for the Execution of Punishments (FSIN) about the unlawfulness of staging their client to the Yamalian colony. Meanwhile, FSIN head Yuri Kalinin explained the staging of the businessman to the Yamal by the unavailability of places in colonies situated adjacent to Moscow and the problem of security in these special institutions. “We must be confident that nothing will happen with Lebedev, so that nobody could then make claims that we did not ensure this security”, noted Kalinin. However, such explanations did not suit Lebedev’s lawyers. In the words of one of the defenders of the businessman, Yevgeni Baru, these explanations are “contrived and belated”. It was reported in the Russian press that corrective-labour colony (ITK) No. 3 of the settlement of Kharp is considered to be one of the most complex places to serve a term of punishment for prisoners in Russia. The population of this zone is comprised in its majority of dangerous criminals and repeat offenders, or “stripers” (polosatniki) as they’re known in FSIN slang because of the special broad-striped uniform. It is known that ITK No. 3 is the place where prisoners sentenced to 20 or more years of deprivation of liberty for the commission of especially grave crimes do their time. The colony outside Kharp is found approximately 60 kilometers to the northwest of Salekhard, in the foothills of the Polar Urals, not far from Vorkuta. Functioning at the colony for a long time is its own furniture and sewing production operation, craftsmen sew footwear, both for their own needs and for sale through shops. From reindeer fur they sew ditty bags that are in demand among the local population. A great help is the fabrication of finishing tile, production of which began half a year ago. In the near future, the output of basalt fiber will be set up there. As is known, at the present time Lebedev and Khodorkovsky have been staged from Kharp and Krasnokamensk, where they are serving the term appointed for them, to Chita: supposedly for the carrying out of some kind of additional investigative actions within the framework of the still uncompleted “YUKOS case”. Platon Lebedev’s lawyers have declared on numerous occasions that their client has serious liver problems. The conditions of confinement in the faraway penal colony and the staging from place to place are a kind of intentional actions by the power with the objective of rendering pressure on Lebedev. The mere fact of rendering additional pressure on a person who has already been convicted can only testify to the prejudiced attitude of the power towards this person and that the case itself has a political character.