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Grigory Pasko: The Sutyagin Book Launch

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Recently at the House of Journalists in Moscow a book launch event was held by Igor Sutyagin – who is well known not only as a fellow of the USA and Canada Institute, but also as one of Russia’s most famous political prisoners, after getting a 15-year jail sentence on a fabricated case by the FSB.  There were a lot of people there, with majority of them being human rights advocates. There were practically no journalists, which isn’t really surprising: once a person is sitting in jail in the name of the FSB, then in a state that is all FSB through and through, and to whom practically all the mass information media belong, there is practically nobody to write about such people as Sutyagin.

At the launch spoke all those same persons that speak at such events always: chairman of the Moscow Helsinki Group Ludmilla Alexeeva, president of the Glasnost Defense Foundation Alexey Simonov, leader of the faction of the greens in the Yabloko party ecologist Alexey Yablokov…Igor’s parents spoke, read aloud an address from the sitter [i.e. prisoner–Trans.] to those gathered (the sense of the address – «don’t be silent!»). They gave out the book.


I listened to the speeches and caught myself at the thought: aninnocent person has sat 10 years behind barbed wire and continues tosit. For 10 years human rights advocates are demanding of the Putinitepower his release. And for 10 years the powers are ignoring the lawsand public opinion. Such is the bottom line. True, they have permittedthe unlawfully convicted one to put out a book. They might have notpermitted it. Someone of those appearing, I think it was the humanrights advocate Lev Ponomarev, brought such an example: one of theprominent politicians told him at a rally: after all, we here, on thesquare, are speaking only because they are still allowing us this. Itoo got such an impression that much of what we have is because theyare still allowing it: the radiostation «Echo Moskvy», for example, or«Novaya gazeta»… Books such as this one, Sutyagin’s, which thepublishing house «Prava cheloveka» [Human rights–Trans.] issued in aprint run of a thousand copies. But after all, we do understand thatall this the current power can put the lid on in one day. And therewill come the life described in «One Day In The Life Of IvanDenisovich» of the late writer Solzhenitsyn (who did not write, by theway, a single line in defense of the multitude of false-spies andscholars convicted by the Putinite Basmanny courts!).

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We read Sutyagin’s book and marvel at the talent and courage of thisperson. There really are talented places in the book . And to write inthose conditions – is not this courage! We recall the errors which,thank God, we learned already not to commit. There were errors in thecase of Sutyagin too: essentially, Igor, having believed in the decencyof employees of the FSB, personally talked some twenty volumes of thecriminal case for himself. Yet he could have kept silent, after all.Silence according to the Criminal Code – is not a sign of agreement. Onthe contrary: the more you say – the more they’ll give you.

Of course, a peculiar democracy has turned out in the country underPutin. Here and there, it is permitted for journalists, human rightsadvocates, writers to write all that they think. (True, even here thepower often can’t restrain itself, seats journalists and bloggers injails and camps). And the power makes use of this “democracy”peculiarly too: it either does not read what they’re writing, orpretends that it doesn’t read. At any rate, it prefers not to react tosuch writings. It brushes them off, like a pesky fly, and that’s it.And that is why scholars numbering more than ten are already sitting incamps. Just Danilov from Kransoyarsk alone they socked with 13 years ofdeprivation of liberty for nothing at all.
It is as if though the power is saying with these trials: we can alwaysseat every one of you. So think before you criticize us. Many havealready stopped criticizing.

…At the launch of Igor Sutyagin’s book there was practically noyouth. And one of those appearing said: «The book has to be translatedinto English, because abroad they know Igor better than in Russia». Sheis right. there their attitude towards violations of human rights ismore attentive. But in our country , perhaps even most likely, Sutyaginwill sit through his term to the end: all 15 years. Without guilt and,in essence, without a trial, because the court was dependent andrigged, with an embedded chekist into the composition of the jurors.

One thing gladdens: Sutyagin’s book bears witness – it was writtenby a free person. Because freedom – is inside each of us. You can notdeprive a person for whom this liberty is inside of liberty.