Grigory Pasko: The Trepashkin Interviews, Part 1

trepash-11204.jpgMikhail Trepashkin freed, Part 1 By Grigory Pasko, journalist On 30 November, former FSB RF officer Mikhail Trepashkin was released from a general regime penal colony in Nizhny Tagil. He had been sentenced on 19 May 2004 by the Moscow District Military Court for divulging a state secret and sentenced to four years of deprivation of liberty with the serving of punishment in a colony-settlement [Russia’s version of “minimum security”—Trans.]. Immediately after his release, Trepashkin declared that he intends to strive for the reconsideration of his case. “I want specifically to reconsider the verdict, and not to dismiss the case. When there will be a repeat consideration, it will become immediately understandable that the criminal case has been fabricated”, he clarified.

In July of this year, the European Court of Human Rights partially satisfied Trepashkin’s application, ruling that the conditions of his detention were “inhuman” and obligating Russia to pay out 3 thsd. euros. And back in March of this year, the Nizhny Tagil court issued a decision on the transfer of Mikhail to a more severe “general-regime” colony – “for numerous violations of the regime”. The convict was unable to change his regime: the term of his punishment expired while he was still appealing this court decision.I met with Trepashkin the day after he returned to Moscow from Nizhny Tagil. We had a long talk, discussing a wide variety of topics. It was evident that Trepashking had a lot he wanted to take off his chest: not to an investigator, not to a judge, not to a zek-cellmate, but just to a human being – a near-total stranger who happened to be a journalist.As someone who had done time myself, I could see that the camp was still inside Trepashkin, through and through: he keeps looking around furtively, he procrastinates when replying to a question… But when he starts to talk, he’s afraid to stop, because they often interrupted him in court and at the investigation, not letting him speak to the substance of the matter. I didn’t interrupt.It should be noted that the former prisoner doesn’t look bad. It is known that they’d given him a bit of medical treatment before release so he’d appear healthier. But it can likewise be seen that Mikhail is strong from birth.After an hour of conversation, he started to breathe laboriously and said that he had to go get his inhaler: he suffers from asthma.From the mass media it is known that the military service of Mikhail Trepashkin began in the atomic submarine fleet. After his enlistment ended, he entered the Higher School of the KGB. Since 1976 – an investigator in the investigative administration of the KGB, specializing in cases of smuggling cultural artefacts and works of art. By the way, for his work in the KGB he has many awards.In the 1990s, he worked in the internal security administration of the FSB. His boss was Nikolai Patrushev, the current FSB director. Among Trepashkin’s successful cases – the unmasking in the year 1995 of a criminal group in the FSB and GRU, which was engaged in the sale of arms to Chechnya. However, the case was ordered closed. In that same year, he was dismissed from the organs. At the beginning of 1996, he sued the FSB for unlawful dismissal, and the court satisfied his claim. But the decision of the court never was carried out.In the middle of 1997, Alexander Litvinenko, who at that time was working in the administration for the elaboration of criminal organizations (UPRO) [“elaboration” roughly translates as “investigation” or “surveillance” in KGB-speak—Rough Trans.], received an order to organize an assault on Trepashkin. Subsequently, in a complaint to the procuracy that Litvinenko submitted against the UPRO as a criminal organization, Trepashkin was mentioned together with Boris Berezovsky and Umar Djabrailov. The latter two likewise were “in elaboration” by the UPRO: Berezovsky was supposed to be assassinated, and Djabrailov kidnapped. In the year 1999, Trepashkin took part in the infamous press conference at which FSB officers Litvinenko, Ponkin, and Shcheglov accused the FSB of criminal activity. Trepashkin was present at the press conference in the capacity of a victim.After this, Trepashkin engaged in a private legal practice for two years. In September 2001, he gave an interview to French journalists, who were making the film “An Attempt on Russia”. In the interview, he told about the activities of the FSB in the contexts of the bombings of the houses in Moscow and Volgodonsk. Right after this, a search was arranged at his home. A criminal case was started up against Trepashkin on the basis of facts of divulging a state secret and unlawful storage of a weapon. The second charge was subsequently dropped, but the first one remained.In May of 2004, Trepashkin was convicted for divulging a state secret to four years. According to the data of the main military procuracy, having undergone from 1984 to 1997 service in the KGB of the USSR and the FSB of Russia, Trepashkin made copies of service documents and unlawfully stored them in his home. (These copies, it is true, were not presented in court. Just like there was no evidence that Trepashkin had ever made them). Later he supposedly divulged a state secret to his colleague, colonel Viktor Shebalin – he transferred the materials of the wiretapping of the telephone calls of members of the Golyanovo criminal grouping, having divulged, in the opinion of the investigation, data about the methods of work of the FSB.In September of the year 2005, Trepashkin was transferred from the Moscow investigative isolator «Matrosskaya Tishina» to Nizhni Tagil Correctional Colony-Settlement IM-13, where former employees of the law-enforcement organs are held. Already by the end of 2005, Trepashkin had received from the administration of IK-13 several disciplinary punishments.In March of 2007, on the basis of an application by the administration of IK-13, the Tagilstroy District Court of Nizhny Tagil found Mikhail Trepashkin to be a malicious violator of discipline and decreed to make the regime of detention more severe for him – by transfer to a general-regime colony. However, it was not fated for Trepashkin to end up there: on 30 November, in consideration of his arrest in the year 2003, the term of imprisonment expired for Trepashkin.Mikhail, do you personally believe there is any hope in appealing the judicial decisions in your case?

Of course, there are – or, more precisely, there have appeared – doubts about the efficacy of the decisions of the Strasbourg Court of Human Rights. And here I’m talking not so much about the court itself as about that machine of lies that is the Russian representation to the court. In their replies to an inquiry of the court, the Russian representatives at times distort reality to the point of unrecognizability.The decision of the International Court of Human Rights with respect to my application contained not all the circumstances of the case. For example, the episode with the bedbugs fell out, although this too is a factor affecting the conditions of detention of prisoners.

What, were there a lot of bedbugs?

When I would come out to my lawyer for a meeting, I would shake them off myself like people shake off dust or dirt. But then in the responses to the Russian representative in Strasbourg, Anatoly Kovler, the administration of the place of confinement sent photos where everything was clean and good. There’s such an impression that Kovler has lost a sense of objectivity. And this then transfers to the decisions of the Strasbourg Court.Of course I will strive for a reconsideration of my case in Russia. For this I have sufficient grounds and strength. I am a supporter of the notion of striving for changes for the better here, in Russia – even if it takes a long time and is tedious. But to keep striving for this.

What did colleagues surprise you with during the time of the investigation and trial? Maybe indigenous justice has forced you to look at reality differently?

Justice – unlikely; after all, I had already worked several years as a lawyer before this, and had seen my share of various judges. Honest ones too were encountered, of course, but such are in the minority. Sooner or later, they all become dependent.Certain colleagues, it goes without saying, were a surprise. For example, Vasily Schegel. In court, he was the representative of the FSB. That is, he appeared not only on behalf of FSB director Patrushev, but also on behalf of the entire FSB and even, in his words, the entire KGB of the USSR. He surprised me with his patent legal illiteracy.I recall how they asked him: if you represent the interests of the KGB, that means you are defending the business reputation of this organization? Yes, he replies. Then they asked him: and you will answer for the Stalinist purges too? He said nothing. Like, by the way, he said nothing about the substance of the case, too. After all, neither he, nor the investigation gave an answer to the main question: was there harm caused to the state from my supposedly having transferred some kind of papers to FSB colonel Shebalin?

The main question, by the way, in all the so-called “spy cases” of Putinite times. The fact is that not a single court has established harm in a single one of these cases. Because there was no harm caused. And by law, if there is no harm caused under the criminal code article on the state secret or state treason, then there is no crime. Article 275 of the Criminal Code it is directly written what comprises the element of the crime: “the conducting of hostile activity to the detriment of external security”…

Yes, and this question was examined in court. We asked, to whose security was detriment caused? The state’s? Or the agency’s – which isn’t in the law? It turned out that it was the agency’s after all, because it became clear: my unmaskings or certain aspects of the activity of employees of the FSB are striking a blow against corruption in this agency, not to mention the obvious illegality of their actions. I got in the way of their “providing roofs” to businesses – that’s the harm I caused.But in spite of this, the judge wrote in the trial record: all witnesses confirmed the conclusions of the investigation.

[Continue reading Part 2 here…]