Garry Kasparov and Karinna Moskalenko. Photo from last April (AP) Earlier today I had the chance to speak with Karinna Moskalenko on the phone, who is currently in Strasbourg, about the arrest and incarceration of her client Garry Kasparov. The events of the past 24 hours have featured all the common trappings of a Kremlin sham trial, including numerous violations of due process, state interference with the defense team, rushed hearings, fabricated documents, and overt political pressures on the legal authorities. For now, Garry languishes in a cell, where he can’t even eat or drink the water for fear of poisoning, and will likely be joined by about 20 more opposition leaders who could receive rigged sentences tomorrow. Karinna is an exceptionally brave lawyer, who has faced disbarment proceedings in the past for efforts to defend human rights in Russia. She deserves our unreserved support in these difficult times.
What were the circumstances of Garry Kasparov’s arrest yesterday?Karinna Moskalenko: This is the second time that Garry has been arrested. In April, he was arrested at rally which was unlawfully denied a permit. Yesterday, the demonstration had all the permits, but the state’s actions were completely unlawful. Even before the day’s events began, the OMON riot police were ready and waiting. Following the conclusion of the demonstration meeting, some of Garry’s supporters began a march to the Central Election Committee to present a petition to the authorities, but were quickly stopped by the police. Violence broke out and many were arrested. When Garry went over to see what happened, he was placed under arrest.What happened at the courthouse?KM: Out of all of the arrests, Garry was the only one who was put through a rush trial, while all the others were postponed until Monday. Olga Mikhailova, the lawyer representing Garry in these proceedings, told me that it was clear that the judge wanted to postpone the case like all the others, but after spending just a few minutes in the deliberation room, he came back out and said that Kasparov’s was of special interest, and that they would proceed at once. It was though he were following an order, she told me.Olga also said she discovered a forged document during the proceedings, which she showed to the judge, who said he would review it. She filed seven motions on behalf of her client, asking for the most basic due process rights, including time to study the case files, time to call witnesses, etc., yet she was uniformly rejected on all motions, the case was pushed through and Garry was sentenced to five days in jail.Has Kasparov’s lawyer been allowed access to her client?KM: There has been tremendous obstruction in this regard. Garry was being held at Petrovka 38, the infamous headquarters of the Moscow police, and despite repeated attempts by lawyers seeking to speak with those that were arrested, they were only allowed into the court at the last minute as a justification by the authorities. Today, following delays lasting many hours, Olga was allowed to see Kasparov.What condition is Kasparov in? Was he hurt or beaten during the arrest?KM: According to my knowledge, Garry was not beaten. He was handled roughly and forcefully placed under arrest by very hostile officers. Since his admission to custody, we have strictly instructed him not to drink any water or eat any food they offer him. I also relayed this message to him via his mother, Klara Kasparova. As we speak, Olga is expecting to gain admission to the facility to meet with Garry and bring him water. It’s very difficult for someone to stay in prison for five days without consuming their water and food.What measures are now being taken to help the case?KM: We have spent the night preparing a motion to present to Amnesty International to have Garry declared as a prisoner of conscience. When human rights leader Lev Ponamarev was arrested last September and imprisoned for three days, Amnesty was able to declare this status to him, so we are hopeful that the organization is able to act.I also would like to add that we are now completing our submission to the European Court on Human Rights, merging Olga’s complaint with an earlier one to denounce the government’s aggravation, in addition to a request for priority status. We hope that the court will give the case priority, because if the international community does not act to stop what is happening here, no one will.What is of greatest concern to you now?KM: What worries us the most is that on Monday we will have to face about 20 or more similar trials, and more and more prominent leaders are going to face imprisonment. With the arrests and trials of people like Ponamarev and others, the government is sending a clear message to society that nobody is untouchable.