My Interview on New Times
I’ve given an interview to Oleg Dusayev of the New Times internet portal. Watch it and read the Russian transcript here. Here is a rough translation, corrections welcome.
OLEG DUSAYEV: Greetings. You are watching the New Times portal, I’m Oleg Dusayev. A criminal investigation has been opened against Dmitry Solovyev, an activist with the Oborona organization. He’s threatened with prison. I’m here with Oborona coordinator Oleg Kozlovsky to discuss the matter. Hello, Oleg.
OLEG KOZLOVSKY: Hello.
DUSAYEV: Let’s begin off topic a bit. Many are already discussing the arrest of Savva Teretyev in Komi for writing a comment on a blog, and the regional leader there has issued a declaration which seems to be in favor of free speech, and offered to commute Teretyev’s sentence if he would retract the most objectionable segments of his remarks. What do you make of that?
KOZLOVSKY: I heard about that on the radio was I was driving over here, and it’s already being reported that Terentyev won’t revise his remarks and the court decision remains in full force, giving him a one-year suspended sentence. It seems to me that a game is being played, not unlike when a dictator orders that pictures of himself be removed from the chambers of parliament, and some deputies refuse to do it, and then the dictator points to this as proof that there is no dictatorship. It’s a dog and pony show.
DUSAYEV: Couldn’t it be a way for the regime to save face?
KOZLOVSKY: If they were serious, it would already have been done.
DUSAYEV: Maybe there hasn’t been enough time yet?
KOZLOVSKY: No, I don’t think that’s it. Of course it’s a good sign that some of the authorities realize that they may have gone too far, but there is no indication that the judicial system will take any notice of it.
DUSAYEV: – Let us now turn to the case Dmitri Soloviev, and you know, just now before going on the air, I carefully read all those posts that were written on his Live Journal blog them. And my reaction is that I don’t even think an ordinary person would be able to comprehend how these utterances could be considered to constitute a crime.
KOZLOVSKY: You have to have unique sensibilities to grasp it. We have not seen the details of the analysis that led to this conclusion, which is the work product of an anonymous KGB specialist who happened to notice the posts.
DUSAYEV: If you had to guess, what would you say is the most offensive remark?
KOZLOVSKY: I suppose it is in situations where he makes direct criticisms of the KGB itself. For example, take the first post the KGB lists as objectionable. It criticized police and FSB authorities. He says they are afraid the public will learn how many innocent people they have imprisoned and how many have perished in confinement, and how poorly they are doing in reducing the level of street crime as they focus on political issues. And this is the same type of speech Savva was prosecuted for, attacking the police authorities. It seems that is what draws their attention most. They feel that if they conduct a few show trials they will intimidate everybody into silence and thus conceal their faults and flaws from inspection.
DUSAYEV: As I understand it, one of the posts was about providing aid and care to terminally ill children, and this too was considered some type of criminal offense?
KOZLOVSKY: – Yes, the next post, which was found too “extremist” was one which criticized the KGB’s decision to prohibit the export of Russian biomaterials, which are used for medical research in other countries to, among other things, help treat sick children. Apparently, the KGB thinks doing so will aid the struggle against international terrorism. Thus, hundreds of children who are waiting for that bone marrow transplants simply were doomed. There is another post, which the authorities have not yet named, which points out that the Supreme Court refused to rehabilitate the family of Nicholas II, and the KGB is involved in that by implication, its ancestor organization having carried out the execution of the family. So it seems to me that the KGB simply sifted through the material looking for a certain kind of open reference to their activities, without even really reading the content.
DUSAYEV: In the scanned indictment you have posted on the web, it appears that a number of very high-ranking personnel within the government are involved with this case. Is it really that important?
KOZLOVSKY: Not according to the potential criminal sentence when compared to other offenses, even hooliganism for example. But the authorities give it importance of a symbolic nature because bloggers are in the public eye and the topic is politics.
DUSAYEV: How did you first learn about the investigation?
KOZLOVSKY: I got an SMS message from Dmitry, and then I called him. He said the trouble started on the morning of August 12th, when he was informed of the investigation by arriving at his home to search it. They seized his computer and various Oborona literature he had on hand, the latter obviously having nothing to do with the Live Journal content.
DUSAYEV: The technical classification of the investigation is rather difficult to understand.
KOZLOVSKY: – As far as I know, again, I am not a lawyer, but as I read the Criminal Code, a suspect, the accused, has the right to familiarize himself with certain materials and participate in some investigative actions. But in this case, the way they have classified the investigation they feel apparently allows them to proceed while making very little information public.
DUSAYEV: What’s next?
KOZLOVSKY: – Dmitri is now in Kemerovo. On Thursday he will be formally questioned. We believe that others have already been questioned as witnesses. Obviously, the first thing they have to do is to prove that Dmitry is the author of the posts in question. Much of the content, in fact, is reprinted from other blogs.
DUSAYEV: Indeed, the indictment accuses him of being “Dimon77.”
KOZLOVSKY: It does seem a bit premature as a conclusion given that he hasn’t been formally questioned yet. It looks like the prosecutors are putting the cart before the horse.
DUSAYEV: Are we technically banned from quoting the content of the posts?
KOZLOVSKY: I can’t see how since no such order has been issued.
DUSAYEV: We have a question from Surena, calling in from Moscow. How does Oborona plan to respond, and how can she help?
KOZLOVSKY: We have established a committee in support of Dmitri Soloviev, which includes representatives of various public organizations and, moreover, we invite all people who can provide real help, to join us, regardless of political persuasion, because the issue concerns everyone. It is not necessary to participate in any political or social activities to become the next victim of regular KGB extremists. The first thing, of course, is that we need to provide legal assistance to Dmitri, because now, unfortunately, he had no professional lawyer who has experience with such cases. A lawyer has been assigned to him, but he is going on vacation this week and, of course, it is very important for Dmitri to have the participation from the outset of professional lawyers, and here we appeal to all who can help with the search for a professional who can represent the interests of defending Dmitry, or who can help with the search for funds. We have created a Live Journal community which will be devoted to this case, and on that blog we will publish all information we get, all the news. In addition, from tomorrow we will start collecting signatures of all Internet users and in general all Russians who want to support Dmitry, and will prepare present the results to the authorities because the case, I repeat, is relevant to any person who has ever said that something that may not be approved by every social group. Because as they interpret our criminical code, anyone can be prosecuted for anything.
DUSAYEV: Do you have a list of attorneys who specialize in handling this type of matter? Who would you like to see represent Dmitry at his trial?
KOZLOVSKY: That is difficult to answer because the case is located in Kemerova, a fairly remote area.
DUSAYEV: Can a Moscow attorney be sent to handle the matter?
KOZLOVSKY: In theory yes, but the funds are not available yet to do this yet.
DUSAYEV: Leaving the matter of the Solovyev case, I wanted to ask you about the effort by the government to ban protest marches and prevent groups like Oborona from participating in them.
KOZLOVSKY: The attempt to ban marches is a surprising new low for the authorities. But we intend to go forward with them in any case, some what may, and to defend out right to free speech and assembly.
DUSAYEV: Thank you, Oleg.