Interview with Olga Mikhailova, Garry Kasparov’s Lawyer

One of the great strengths of this blog is that we actually have the resource of people who speak Russian, as well as our own correspondents in Russia. This allows us to offer you such exclusive breaking stories as the following, in which Garry Kasparov’s lawyer Olga Olegovna Mikhailova describes firsthand the circumstances surrounding Kasparov’s arrest and “trial”, in her own words:

On Saturday, November 24, a completely legal, officially sanctioned rally was held on Andrei Sakharov Square in Moscow, attended by about 2000 people, including Garry Kimovich Kasparov. The permit that the organizers had obtained allowed the event to take place from 13:00 to 14:00. During the rally, participants were essentially surrounded by a cordon of police, but were not otherwise provoked.By 14:15, the people were dispersing peacefully, and many were intending to walk to another planned rally that was supposed to take place a bit later not too far away. But the police were restricting exit from the rally site, forcing everybody to leave through only one access point. As they walked out, the people found themselves on a sidewalk with only one way to go, because the OMON had blocked a pedestrian crosswalk across the street at this point, requiring everyone to continue walking along the sidewalk. Garry Kasparov was among them.Somewhat further, however, the OMON had blocked the road as well, so the line of people quickly turned into a crowd at this point. Employees of the police then implemented the apprehension of Garry Kasparov, along with a certain number of other people. He was taken to the Basmanny Rayon OVD [police station]. His lawyers were not allowed to see him for an hour or more. I had come down to the OVD and was trying to get in, but a cordon of OMON blocked my way and refused to let me pass. In fact, the whole city center was blocked by OMON – we had to scramble through back alleys just to get there.Then it was reported that Kasparov had been taken to Basmanny Court, but this wasn’t true – it turned out that they had taken him to Meshchansky Court instead. There, he demanded to see his lawyer, but they still refused to let me in – once again, the OMON cordon was not letting me through. They weren’t letting anyone through. Actually, there were TWO OMON cordons around the courthouse, and it was impossible for anyone to get in. I stood there about an hour before I was finally allowed to pass inside the courthouse.The trial – not an arraignment, but an actual trial – began all of 15 minutes after I’d arrived. That’s all the time Garry and I were given to prepare beforehand. We immediately filed a variety of motions, asking for everything from a dismissal of the case to additional time to prepare for the trial, but the judge denied them all. Well, actually, she did partially satisfy one motion: We had asked for a delay at least until Monday so the defence could have the time to prepare documents and photographs to present as evidence. The judge decided to allow us a 30 minute recess in order to familiarize ourselves with the case materials presented by the prosecution. This was regarded as a “partial satisfaction” of our motion.Among our motions was one requesting that the trial be open to the public. The judge said that it already was an open trial, but refused to satisfy our motion to allow the people standing behind the OMON cordons outside to be let into the courtroom. The press secretary of the Moscow City Court, at his personal discretion, did start letting in a few journalists, some of whom actually did sit through the entire trial. Throughout the whole ordeal, Garry Kasparov held himself very well and with dignity.The case materials presented by the prosecution contained three reports written by the police officers who had detained Garry Kasparov. Two of these were printed out, and they were absolutely identical in content, even though they had supposedly been written by two different people. The third was handwritten. When we cross-examined the third policeman, he said he had written it by hand and then his supervisor had typed it out. But when we then looked at the printed version, it was a completely different text from his original handwritten statement.We brought this discrepancy to the attention of the judge, at which point she announced that “due to the arrival of night time” (it was 22:00; night time had arrived many hours earlier), she was adjourning the trial and stopping the questioning of the witness. She didn’t “call a recess”, as would ordinarily be expected – she completely “adjourned” the trial. And instead of announcing that the questioning of the witness would continue when the trial resumed, she unilaterally declared that it was over completely.Then she retired to chambers. I have not been inside the judge’s chambers, so I can’t say if she has a telephone in there or not. All I do know is that barely 5 minutes later, she suddenly returned to the courtroom and changed her earlier decision, stating now that the trial would continue since there wasn’t all that much material to go over in the case. The questioning of the third policeman continued, but now he no longer seemed to remember anything…I then filed a motion asking the court to call defence witnesses who had been present at the rally and had photos and videos of Garry Kasparov’s arrest; and also Major-General Kozlov, who had given the actual order to arrest him, according to one of the witnesses. The judge denied the motion, on the grounds that the defence was just trying to drag out the trial unnecessarily.All the witnesses I wanted to call were outside, just beyond the previously mentioned OMON cordons, by the way. At one point, I stepped out to get some documents from them (specifically, the permit showing that the rally had been sanctioned), but the OMON refused to allow even the documents to pass through the cordon.When the trial ended, the judge retired to chambers to issue the verdict. She came out again within 10 minutes, and had in hand a three-page single-spaced document all ready to read out, in which she decreed on the selection of 5 days of arrest for Garry Kasparov. Immediately after the pronouncement of the decree, his defence filed an appeal of this decision. By law, such a motion must be heard and adjudicated within 24 hours. As I write this, on Sunday night, 22 hours have already passed, and neither I nor the other defence lawyer has any reason to assume that the court has examined this appeal. The court building is already closed right now.On Sunday, November 25, State Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov and I attempted to visit Garry Kasparov at the IVS [Temporary Detention Isolator] of the GUVD [City Administration of Internal Affairs] of the city of Moscow, where he is being held. We weren’t allowed inside, because, as we were told, Sunday is not a work day.Nine other people were arrested along with Garry Kasparov. They are all still in the Basmanny UVD police station, still waiting to be seen by a judge. Even though they were arrested at the same time and for the same thing, these people have not already been tried and convicted like Garry Kasparov. Indeed, they’re not even being allowed to see their lawyers.