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A verdict on the entire system
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, 20 2009
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The jury verdict in the Anna Politkovskaya murder trial finds a complete failure on the part of Russian law enforcement.
We are publishing a transcript of the press conference held on February 19th, inside the offices of ‘Interfax’. Youcan learn about a small part of it from programs on the main Russian television channels. Whatfollows are the harshest and most important statements made by attorneys Karinna Moskalenko and Anna Stavitskaya, ‘Novaya Gazeta’ editor-in-chief Sergei Sokolov, and Ilya Politkovsky, son of Anna Politkovskaya.
Attorney for the prosecution (sic: attorney for the victim SG) Karinna Moskalenko first took the floor:
“Earlier we talked and exchanged ideas with many of the journalists gathered here, but the victims’ side until recently has maintained its neutrality, since we decided not to act in any way that would prejudice the jury prior to its final judgments.
“The purpose of criminal proceedings is to protect the rights of the crime victims. Before you are two of them, but there are, in fact, more. Tellme, have we achieved this goal? No, we have not, but these objectives should be met in strict observance of the law and the rights of the accused. Inthis sense we are calling for the execution of those laws, and so there is no need to lament this verdict. Wewelcome the presence in our country of the institution of trial by jury, which we believe to be the most equitable form of justice. Inany case, today the jury reached a verdict, and we will never know what discussions and debates resulted in it, but, mind you, it was unanimous. Thismeans that all of us, the citizens of our country and citizens of other countries and all who respect this institution, we must acknowledge their verdict. Thisverdict has not yet entered into force, and the sentence has not yet been imposed. Itwill be submitted tomorrow, but we must recognize that this verdict was as the result of adversarial proceedings, and Anna Edvardovna (Stavitskaya) and Iand the clients we represent were very closely monitoring these so that the rights of all parties were respected. Finally, the last thing Iwill tell you: for us it was very important not to accuse, nor sink to taking sides. Itwas not important for us to carry out the functions of the defense. Theaccused had good defenders who worked conscientiously during the trial, and they coped well with their task. Onlynow we have just seen in a rare example of a case in our country where there has actually been an adversarial trial, and if as a result of this adversarial trial the jury reached a verdict that the guilt of certain individuals was not proven, then we must agree: unproven guilt is the same as proven innocence.”
Anna Stavitskaya: “If you remember, early in the trial we made the statement that the investigation was not conducted very effectively. Fromour point of view, a view to which we have adhered since the beginning of the trial, a case like this way should never have even gone to court. Thiswhole trial has just shown that we were absolutely right, and it is impossible now to lash out at the jury and say that they arrived at some sort of a wrong judgment or that they did not understand what took place during the trial. Wecarefully listened to what was presented by the prosecution during sessions, and by the defense, as well as how the defense tried to influence the jury. Inour opinion, the defense was more convincing. Thejury’s verdict was the result of the work by both sides, and the result of the evidence in the case, which was not sufficient to allow them to reach an unambiguous conclusion concerning the defendants’ guilt. Wecan guess why the verdict turned out like this, but from a standpoint of legal analysis, Iam a lawyer and cannot depart from it in any way: if guilt is unproven, the verdict must be unambiguously for acquittal.”
Sergei Sokolov, editor-in-chief of ‘Novaya Gazeta’: “As is well-known and discussed quite a bit, “Novaya Gazeta’ has been and continues to conduct its own journalistic investigation. Ihave an explanation for many of the issues raised here by the lawyers. Above all, we, of course, also respect the jury’s verdict and are not going cast doubt on it. Thatis a matter for the prosecutor, who is preparing an appeal to a higher court. There really should have been a lot more evidence presented in court, and there really should have been a larger number of defendants in court, and certainly, the people who were acquitted today are still relevant to the murder. Wecontinue to insist on this point of view. Weare not lawyers, so it is somewhat simpler for us in this respect. Why, indeed, did it turn out like it did? Theinvestigators will never agree with this, but Iwill express their point of view: the investigators were categorically forbidden from doing their job, and this was not due to some guidance from above, but in terms of resistance from the entire system. Whenit appeared that the law enforcement bodies, the security services, and many of their secret agents were to be drawn into this story, the system put up a giant shield, starting from the fact that they helped to hide the alleged killer, Rustam Mahmudov. Please tell me how a person on the federal most-wanted list could be living under an assumed name and riding around with an FSB officer on raids, how he could get a passport under a third name and then leave the country? Howcould this be? Whydid they not conduct a proper search of Ryaguzov’s office? After Igave my testimony, Ibecame acquainted with certain things and suddenly Ifound out a huge quantity of all sorts of documents that had been seized from apartments, including a recording of someone who was going out to buy some fish or margarine. Butthe search of Mr. Ryaguzov went like this: a piece of paper with some telephone number on it was found in his office safe, while the rest was “unrelated to the case.” In his desk there was also a paper found, while all the rest was “unrelated to the case.” Ryaguzov’s computer system was also “unrelated to the case.” Guys, how can this be, when all these comrades who hung around him had a direct bearing on his intelligence work? Whywere the investigators not been granted access to any of the agent’s registration cards or files relating to the activities of Gaydukaev and the rest of his group? Andwhy, in the end, were the surveillance wiretaps made of Mr. Ryaguzov and listened to by FSB officers not handed over to the investigators? There are a lot of questions like these. Iwould hazard a guess that, had the investigators been allowed to work effectively, today we would have seen a completely different verdict. Onceagain Iwill say this: the opposition was enormous. Theyare now impugning the investigators, and Iwould call this a disaster because today’s verdict is a verdict on the entire law enforcement system, a system that is ineffective from start to finish. Thekiller was identified two days after the murder, and this was announced by the FSB of the Russian Federation, but investigators did not find out about this until six months later. Howcan this be? Whatis this, if not opposition?”
Ilya Politkovsky: “I fully agree with every position stated here. Iwould also like to add that, while studying the case materials even before the trial as well as now, Ithink all four men who were acquitted today by the jury were in one way or another involved in the murder of my mother. Iam not a lawyer, so Ican say it how Ireally think it. Theextent of their guilt and involvement had to proven in court. Theprosecution was unable to do so. Inany case, the verdict of the jury was a unanimous verdict. There was no vote: acquittal.”
A question from the audience: “What do you think, who threw obstacles in front of the investigators? Doyou have any theories?”
Sergei Sokolov: “Yes, Ihave a theory in this regard. Allow me to answer it in this way: all who are involved in investigative journalism know that it is only necessary to do some investigation, even of a very minor offense, and then you instantly come across some corrupt precinct officer, backed up by corrupt supervisors, and so on in ascending order. Accordingly, when what we are talking about came to the attention of the law enforcement bodies, a gigantic network of corruption was revealed and they were very afraid that if someone were to tug on a thread the entire system could come crashing down. Thegeneral fears the arrest of the sergeant, because in one way or another the path leads to him. Thisis the de facto system, one in which everyone is afraid that his subordinate will turn state’s evidence on him, and so this apparatus’s survival instinct is such that they do not hand over anyone. During the trial it turned out that the supervisor of Lieutenant Colonel Ryaguzov had flown away with persons involved in the criminal case. Heknew everything about these people, and was in constant communication with them. Would he allow himself to get set up? Never in a million years. Thatis why there were such a huge number of leaks coming from Interior Ministry and the security services. Itwas because of these leaks that the killer got away. Itwas because of these leaks that others involved in the case got away. And, let me put this frankly, in my opinion, even the arrests that were made were all made at absolutely the wrong time. Theywere done too abruptly, and this was because of a particular intrigue that was going on between the Attorney General’s Office and the Investigative Committee. Everyone wanted to distinguish himself above all the others. Thisis not work. Itis a showdown. And, as a matter of fact, the investigators and this is the reason why Iam speaking partly like a lawyer the investigators worked under these conditions.”
Karinna Moskalenko: “Allow me to object a bit to Sergei. Idid not hear during the investigation, or after it, any complaints from the investigators that their work was being interfered with. Moreover, investigators have procedural rules to express such annoyance and demand their investigative independence. Ofcourse, Ido not live in a vacuum, so Iunderstand perfectly what Sergei is saying, and such facts must have taken place, but Isee it in no way as justifying the investigators. Youknow, if we put ourselves in the shoes of the investigators every time, in the position of people who improperly perform functions for the criminal justice system, we will not get results. Wewill end up with what we have now. Acase is sent to a professional court, and it is judged. Thecase goes to an independent court of jurors and here sit simply citizens who are, appropriately, unprepared to judge anyone, and there is a verdict of acquittal. Itis so. Andthat the investigators had interference, Iagree, Iknow these facts, ‘Novaya Gazeta’ shared these facts with us. Theinvestigators need to understand that they must do honor to the uniform and truly protect, they must tell us the facts and circumstances that prevent their normal conduct of an investigation. Butit has gone to court and we now we can say this: there were two cases, and one remained with the Attorney General, which we call the main case. Theytold us that the other one was the main case, and this was separate. Sonow we can say that the main case in now the only case, and you still have an opportunity to do an investigation and if someone interferes with you, declare this to the public and demand your independence.
“But still the court bore fruit. Wehave learned new facts that can be analyzed. Previously, we petitioned the investigators, but were refused. Nowlet us see what they will do with these petitions.”
Anna Stavitskaya: “I do not know who interfered with the investigation. Ithink if an investigator is honest, he must talk about it. Wheninvestigating crimes, saying that someone has interfered and so Icould not solve it, or at least, Ihad to do it unprofessionally, is in general cowardly, but the investigation actually interfered with us, with the victims. During the course of the trial we represented the victims and we defended their rights. We, the representatives of the victims, were not allowed to do our job. Perhaps had we been allowed, had the investigators considered petitions that we just mentioned, what happened may not have happened.”
A question from the audience: “Given what you just said, will anyone from the system you described be brought to justice?”
Sergei Sokolov: “I look at it like this: if the government wants to find someone guilty, it will. Ifthe government shows a lack of interest in a guilty verdict, it will end up something like what happened today. Youknow, bowing my head to this whole story with the Anna Stepanovna Politkovskaya case, with the Yuri Petrovich Shchekochikhin case, with Igor Domnikov and Stas Markelov and Nastya Baburova Iunderstand that the system is not simply rotten: it does not even function. Despite attempts by certain people. Itis impossible. Itdoes not work. Itis an absurd story.”
A question from the audience: “Will you ask for a new investigative team? IfGaribyan remains in charge, how effective will it work, considering what happened today?”
Sergei Sokolov: “The prospects are dim, and it is not just because of Investigator Garibyan. Ifthese six met with such opposition in this story, imagine what it will be like when they close in on whom it was who actually ordered the murder. Arethere any developments on whom it was? Yes, but Iwould in this situation caution against attempts to turn the second criminal case into a PR campaign. Thehead of the group can be an effective manager from the prosecutor’s office. Weknow how they investigated the Khodorkovsky case and many others: they grab the first vagrants they find, find them guilty, and case closed. Iwould very much like to see professionals involved in this situation. Itis no good to simply dismiss those who were already involved in the situation: they are of some use. There already were attempts to change the investigator, and no good came of it. Ido not think that we need to make such personnel decisions, even if my colleagues may not share my view.”
Karinna Moskalenko: “We as yet have not discussed the prospect of removing the investigator. Wehave this right, of course, but is it worth it? Orwill the investigation now think about a lot of advice we gave in the form of petitions that they did not address? Ifwe see senseless actions, or actions that are incomprehensible to us, or lack of attention to our petitions, we will then discuss the issue of recusal.
“As for in which direction the investigation is now going Ifat this time there had been at least some sort of conviction, the investigation would be done. Theinvestigation has not turned out a case, and Ithink this makes the need for more effective work evident, and by this Imean a team of investigators who would not be under the command of officers from parallel agencies. Thisinvestigative team should be in charge of the case, and if there is some operational support, then it should work for the investigation. Wecan say nothing else. There are certain developments, and we will submit petitions, but will do so non-publicly. Weneed to let the investigators do their work, but only if we see that they are really ready to do this seriously.”
Anna Stavitskaya: “Remember what they taught us in school: relocating the terms does not change the sum. Ifinstead of Garibyan they put in Ivanov or Petrov, and they do not let him do his job, nothing will happen. Itdoes not matter who it is who is occupied in solving this case: if the investigator wants it solved, he will do so.”
A question from the audience: “Karinna, at the beginning of the trial, you said that you considered it a mistake for the investigators to ignore (Chechen President) Ramzan Kadyrov’s statement that he knew who committed the murder, and you considered a mistake that they did not investigate the fact that Anna was killed on Putin’s birthday. Whatdo you now think about this?”
Karinna Moskalenko: “Thank you for your question. Thefact is, at the beginning of the trial there was a scandal: words that Inever uttered were attributed to me. Theysaid that, supposedly, Moskalenko requested Ramzan Kadyrov be summoned as a witness. Ihad to answer the phone a hundred and fifty times and explain that Inever made such a petition. Itis true that the names of Kadyrov and Putin were heard during the debate of the case by the two sides, but not because Iasked them to be called into the courtroom. Thevictims’ side stated that the investigation was effective, and especially so when it examined, not formally, but carefully, all noteworthy theories. Andif someone, it does not matter if he is Ramzan Kadyrov or Ivan Ivanov, if he says that he knows something for a fact, especially if it is related to a case in which there is clearly insufficient evidence, then of course this information should be collected. WhenI stated that the murder date fell on Putin’s birthday, Iwas talking about the development of investigative leads. Itwas necessary to analyze this, and talk about how it may or may not be a motive for the crime. After all, it could be that these were certain enemies of Putin. Wecan construct two or possible more theories from this. Wedo not know the extent to which these theories were tested, but there are no signs that they even were. Thatis yet another omission by the investigation.”
A question from the audience: “Karinna, did you expect that the verdict would be for acquittal?”
Karinna Moskalenko: “You know, until the very last the victims’ side remained neutral. Thiswas the essence of our performance in the debate. Wedid not want for our point of view, or our delusions or our rightness, to in any way affect the jury’s verdict. Wewanted it to be purely the will of the jury and because of this they knew of our neutrality and our refusal to blame or defend the accused. Andso we hid our point of view. Today we can say: yes, we allowed for such a possibility, not that we expected an acquittal, that Icannot say because, as you the people here standing by me have already said, to some extent we suspected that the persons who were brought to court were involved in certain circumstances. Butwas it possible to assume that there was sufficient evidence of their guilt? Moreof a ‘no’ than a ‘yes’. Butwe still expected, we still thought it possible for there to be an acquittal. Today, you know, when the jury retired and we were waiting for a call disclosing their verdict, when it came just two hours later, we said to ourselves: “Well, not guilty.” Oh, and besides, as my colleague said, the defense was very convincing.”
A question from the audience: “Do you think that they are guilty?”
Karinna Moskalenko: “You know, when Icame here Ithought there would be people with whom Icould talk easily and from whom Iwould have nothing to hide. Icannot say thank you for your question, because it is very harsh. CanI refrain from answering this question? Perhaps you can decide that Iam, but Iwill not refrain from answering this question, because Icannot answer any other way except: a not guilty verdict is for me proof that they are innocent. Iam a lawyer, and it is much easier for my friends over at ‘Novaya Gazeta’. Iwill tell you what the verdict was: unproven guilt is the same as proven innocence. Thisis a postulate that Inever overstep.”
Sergei Sokolov: “I am going to intercept the pass meant for Karinna Akopovna (Moskalenko), and answer it this way: Ibelieve that all four men sitting in the dock, and it is not just me but everyone with me who conducted this investigative journalism, Ibelieve that they were all involved in the murder. Moreover, Iam very worried, really worried for all the witnesses, both in the Anna Politkovskaya case, and in the Edward Ponikarov case, witnesses who testified in court. Iam guessing that now there is danger to their lives and health. Sitting in the dock were people who were not the most important suspects, but very serious ones anyway. Iwould like to ask journalists to closely monitor the fate of witnesses in this case.”
A question from the audience: “What is your feeling on this, will the case be brought to its logical conclusion?”
Karinna Moskalenko: “We will force the investigation to get to work. Thisis something that we, the lawyers who represent the victims’ side, this we promise you, the public, and ourselves. Wewill make them work. While the trial was going on, we prepared and filed several petitions. Wedid not stop work, not for a minute. Wecame to this trial knowing the weakness of the evidence, and we leave it now knowing that our fears were justified. Butwe did not need to know the identity of the assassins. Inmy practice, sometimes Ihave looked with astonishment at the injured party, and when there was insufficient evidence Ialways thought: why you need to put these people away? Doyou still not need the truth? Myprincipals only want the truth. Attorney Stavitskaya and Inever dwell on half-truths, and mainly because Anya would never have stopped at half-truths.”
Sergei Sokolov: “And, actually, we are very grateful that it was an open trial. Ifyou recall, there were very clumsy attempts to close it. Iperform obeisance to Mr. Kolesov, the juror who brought this whole story out into the open. Because this was an open trial, we have seen our law enforcement and security services in a very bad light. Allthese agents, about which nothing can be said, and who live their own lives and are accountable to no one, all the testimony from Ryaguzov and his disclosures in court, this whole system of kidnappings by officers from anti-organized crime unit: all of this was revealed before our very eyes. Herewe have in mind two verdicts: one of them is a de jure acquittal, while the second is a de facto condemnation. Theentire court has issued a guilty verdict on the law enforcement system, which is running wild, and the corruption that exists here in this country.”
A question from the audience: “Ilya, are you disappointed with this verdict?”
Ilya Politkovsky: “I am not disappointed. Thisis the verdict, and that is how it is. ButI am disappointed in the indictments, and with those who prepared them. Thisverdict was the end result of documents that were submitted to the court. Thisis very important. Iwas, in principle, ready for this verdict.”
In ‘Novaya Gazeta’ #18, February 20th, 2009.

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