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Grigory Pasko: R.I.P., Stanislav Markelov (1974-2009)

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Yet another human rights advocate killed in the capital of Russia. Lawyer Stanislav Markelov was shot on Prechistenka street in the center of Moscow. Stanislav was only 34 years old, but he was well known not only in the milieu of human rights advocates, but in wider circles as well. First and foremost, he was known as the Moscow lawyer who was not afraid to conduct cases in Chechnya, defending Chechen citizens. In recent days, his name was never off the pages of the mass information media, because he was striving to get the conditional early release of Yuri Budanov, a former colonel who killed the young Chechen woman Elza Kungayeva, declared unlawful.

And it was right after a press conference dedicated to this unlawful release that Stanislav was killed.

The head of the investigative administration for Moscow, AnatolyBagmet, has already declared that the murder of the lawyer may be”associated with his professional activity.”

This phrase in Russia has already become so typical that personally,it irritates me with its stupidness and routineness. If they kill ajournalist or a lawyer, then what other reason can there possibly be inPutin’s Russia besides the profession of these people!

It was not by chance that I have recalled the profession of journalist:many consider that the murders of Anna Politkovskaya and StanislavMarkelov are very similar. First of all, because they were killed forthe honest fulfillment of their professional duty and because the stateorgans did nothing for the protection of such professionals.

Furthermore, the state had knowledge of facts of threats both to theaddress of Politkovskaya, and to the address of Markelov. Why did thelaw-enforcement organs not do a single damn thing to protect thejournalist and the lawyer? Could it be because the state organsthemselves weren’t very interested in preserving the lives of thesepeople?

Markelov is also known for the fact that he worked on cases againstRussian Nazis. With Markelov was «Novaya gazeta» journalist AnastasiaBaburova, who happened to be writing specifically about cases connectedwith the activity of Russian nazis. The killers gravely wounded her inthe head.

Stanislav Markelov likewise represented the interests of the journalist Mikhail Beketov,savagely beaten in November of the year 2008. Beketov is known as theopposition journalist who had published unmasking articles about theofficials of the administration of [Moscow suburb] Khimki in thenewspaper “Khimkinskaya pravda” and was actively fighting to save theKhimki forest, which until recent times had been threatened withclearance in connection with the construction of the Moscow-Petersburg expressway.

Here is the opinion of human rights leader Lev Ponomarev, whom I telephoned immediately after the murder of Stanislav Markelov:

This was a person close to me. What is especially tragic is thatthis was a young person. Tomorrow we in conjunction with «Memorial» areconducting an action of memory for the slain lawyer. Stanislavliterally dodged bullets in our country: he led cases in Chechnya,cases against nazis, was the lawyer for the family of the young Chechenwoman killed by Budanov… The nazis threatened him openly, on theirwebsites were hanging threats to his address. I reminded him aboutprecautionary measures, but what could he do?.. They killed the person,as is said, at the battle station.

And here is the opinion of Stanislav’s colleague, the lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin:

This murder proves yet again that in our country it is dangerous to bea defender of the rights of people, if the opposite side is – the stateor people near to it. The state clearly sympathized with both the Nazisand Budanov. And against lawyers who defend the rights of people,especially if these rights are violated by state organs orlaw-enforcement organs, at times are applied even such measures asarrest, the initiation of fabricated cases. For a long time already,there is talk about the creation in Russia of a special structure forthe protection of lawyers. We see that certain lawyers are alreadyafraid to take part in the defense of politically motivated criminalcases.

To this I add that Trepashkin himself conducts such cases as thepersecution of the organization «Portos»; defends the rights of thejournalist Boris Stomakhin who is sitting in a colony.

And so, yet another high-profile and audacious murder has beencommitted in the Russia of the times of Putin. I doubt that it willever be fully solved. At best, as with the case of Anna Politkovskaya,they’ll take the triggerman into custody.