Karinna Moskalenko Continues Her Fight Against Kremlin Harassment

My friend and colleague Karinna Moskalenko, one of Russia’s greatest human rights lawyers, is featured in an extensive Washington Post article today, detailing her efforts to fend off the politically motivated campaign to disbar her and prevent her from practicing law in Russia. Observant readers will recall that this blog was the very first outlet to break the news about the disbarment proceedings opened against Moskalenko (coverage from mass media shortly followed), and serve as a platform to chronicle all actions taken by Russian government to punish and harass lawyers for simply doing their job. This crass and transparently biased attempt smear Moskalenko’s reputation and destroy her career is just the latest in a long established pattern of harassment of lawyers and anyone else to have been even remotely involved with Khodorkovsky or Yukos. The fact that the Russian government has chosen to attack everyone within reach of this case, even PriceWaterhouse Coopers, is a firm demonstration that they know that what they are doing is illegal, and the only way to cover themselves for breaking the law is to scare everyone away. Karinna is going through an extremely unpleasant and frighteningly lawless process right now, and she deserves our support and tireless advocacy to let the procuracy know that such tactics of intimidation will not and shall not be tolerated. If there is anything positive to be drawn from this baseless disbarment campaign, it is that now the world now knows and understands beyond the shadow of a doubt that the charges against Mikhail Khodorkovsky are politically motivated, based not on merit but the vengeful inclinations of an autocracy. There is simply no other reason that so many lawyers, myself included, should be threatened, harassed, intimidated, deported, and jailed. moskalenko0603.jpg From the Washington Post:

“I am the champion of unsuccessful cases — at least in Russia,” Moskalenko said in an interview at the offices of the International Protection Center, the legal defense organization she founded 12 years ago. “Hopeless people are my clients.” Now, Moskalenko fears she will become a hopeless case herself. The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office, her constant adversary, is seeking to have her disbarred — on the remarkable grounds that she has failed to adequately represent one of its prime targets, Khodorkovsky. It has succeeded in getting the Ministry of Justice to back its claim before the Moscow Bar Association. A hearing is scheduled for next month. Moskalenko, 53, is known as a formidable legal foe of the Russian state, invariably losing in the country’s courts but winning numerous cases at the European Court in Strasbourg, where her clients include the families of tortured, disappeared or murdered Chechens. Khodorkovsky’s attorneys have long been subject to official harassment, including arrests, searches of their persons and offices, and seizure of defense materials. His international attorneys have faced expulsion, and his domestic ones disbarment proceedings. But the case against Moskalenko takes the campaign to new levels, analysts here say. … “I didn’t want to take this case,” Moskalenko said. Khodorkovsky “is a rich man and I had many doubts because, at first, this didn’t look like a human rights case. But after they started to attack one of our colleagues, a young attorney, I changed my mind.” The bar association rejected the prosecutors’ motion against Artyukhova, but the authorities appealed to the courts and the case dragged on for nearly two years before Artyukhova, exhausted, voluntarily stopped practicing law. Since then, the Russian authorities have unsuccessfully tried to have 12 of Khodorkovsky’s lawyers disbarred. “This is psychological pressure to knock us off our mode of working,” said Yuri Schmidt, one of Khodorkovsky’s senior lawyers who beat back an attempt to disbar him in 2005. “Every time they file a complaint it requires a lot of time to defend.” Schmidt noted that he was disbarred once, in Soviet days when he criticized a local party committee. “I was saved by perestroika,” he said, referring to the reforms and new openness under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. In all cases until now, the bar association, where lawyers form a majority of any panel reviewing a disbarment case, has refused to support the government’s attempts to disbar Khodorkovsky’s lawyers. But Schmidt fears there is a hidden agenda to the repeated filings . “At some point I believe the Ministry of Justice will argue that they’ve filed so many complaints and the bar keeps defending these lawyers, so the law needs to be amended to punish lawyers,” he said. Any amendment, he said, would likely replace the majority of working lawyers on review boards with a majority of government appointees. In Schmidt’s case, the ministry abandoned its effort to disbar him when it lost at the bar, but Moskalenko fears that in her case, as with Artyukhova’s, prosecutors will appeal to the courts, where they rarely lose. “If the issue goes to the court, I will be disbarred,” Moskalenko said. “I have no doubt.”

Complete article here.