The following press release was distributed to media outlets on 17 July 2015:
LONDON, 17 July 2015 – The reported move by Moscow to issue an arrest warrant against Russian opposition State Duma Deputy Ilya Ponomarev represents a familiar abuse of the legal system, says lawyer Robert Amsterdam.
According to Russian media reports on Wednesday, the Basmanny District Court is preparing to issue the arrest warrant as soon as Friday, relating to a trumped criminal case which Amsterdam says was fabricated against Ponomarev as a form of political persecution. The Basmanny District Court has become infamous for dispensing ordered justice including in the case of opposition-leader Aleksey Navalniy and the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
“The international community is exhausted by this sort of continuous instrumentalisation of the Russian judicial system by Putin and his cronies, and the fact that they are using the Basmanny Court is no coincidence,” said Amsterdam.
The term “Basmanny Justice” was coined more than 10 years ago during the first trial against Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was convicted and sentenced as one of Putin’s most well known political prisoners before his release in late 2013, becoming synonymous with distortions of judicial process that are implemented in highly political cases. According to Amsterdam, this same process of arbitrary prosecution is now being pointed at Ponomarev.
“We intend to vigorously fight this absurd case and expose the total absence of grounds before all relevant multilateral organizations, including Interpol and the European Court of Human Rights,” says Amsterdam. “There comes a point when politically motivated criminal cases can no longer be taken seriously by any credible institution, and the Russian government’s track record here is well established.”
The Honorable Mr. Ponomarev has led a distinguished political career, including making history as the lone vote against the annexation of Crimea in a 445-1 decision. He has, however, also been forced to live in exile since August 2014, as the Russian authorities have mounted a bogus legal campaign against him, preventing his return home. In April 2015, the Duma voted 438-1 to strip Ponomarev’s immunity so that he could be prosecuted on criminal charges relating to a civil case regarding disbursements of funds for the Skolkovo innovation fund, even though he never had any authority over the project finances, says Amsterdam, who represents Ponomarev on a pro bono basis.
Amsterdam & Partners LLP is an international law firm with offices in London and Washington DC. Past clients have included the former head of Yukos Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former Prime Minister of Thailand Thaksin Shinawatra, and the former President of Zambia Rupiah Banda. In 2013, the firm was awarded the American Lawyer Global Pro Bono Dispute of the Year award for representing the whistleblower Georges Tadonki in a case against his former employer at the United Nations.