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Exposing the ‘experts' who secretly help to imprison Crimean and Russian political prisoners

09.02.2021
Halya Coynash

Wall of armed and masked ’officers’, children of 36-year-old Erfan Osmanov arrested on 23.03.2019

An important new initiative has begun exposing those academics providing the dodgy ‘expert opinions’ most often used to convict Crimean or Russian political prisoners on fabricated charges.  The first 15 cases outlined on the Dissernet.org website include the four ‘experts’ collaborating with the Russian FSB to sentence  Crimean Tatar human rights activist Emir-Usein Kuku and five other Crimean prisoners of conscience, to up to 19 years without any crime. 

The ‘experts’ in question never advertise such ‘work’, and it is hoped that by naming them and demonstrating their commissioned ‘conclusions’, Dissernet will make such individuals and others think twice before staining their reputation in this way.  

Dissernet describes itself as “a free Internet society of experts, researches and reporters devoting their efforts to exposing crooks; falsifiers and liars”.  On 26 January, in cooperation with the Amicus Curiae Society, lit launched the website ‘Court expert opinions’, which provides details of each case, naming the ‘experts’ and providing analysis of their opinions.

Dmitry Dubrovsky, an academic and researcher for the Centre for Independent Sociological Research, explains that the Centre began gathering and analysing court opinions three years ago, and were appalled by the low quality and unscientific nature of the opinions expressed.

One of the key problems is that, while there are clear standards for carrying out forensic examinations, there are essentially none for other ‘expert opinions’.  Anybody can be an ‘expert’.  Dubrovsky says that this does have its positive side since it increases the chance of engaging independent experts.

Judging by Russia’s trials of Crimean Tatar political prisoners, opinions by independent experts are ignored, even where they have demonstrated in detail the failings of the FSB-commissioned ‘experts’ (see Expert demolishes Russian FSB ‘evidence’ against imprisoned Crimean Tatar civic activists )

Dubrovsky and his colleagues hope to demonstrate how the Russian judicial system, as well as the specific experts, are putting themselves and the country to shame through the dodgy ‘opinions’ produced and their uncritical acceptance by the courts.  Dubrovsky recalls the suspended sentence against Stanislav Dmitriyeskiy in 2006 for supposedly ‘inciting enmity’. Larisa Teslenko, at the time the deputy head of the philology faculty of Nizhny Novgorod University, wrote in her ‘expert assessment’ that the term ‘Russian-Chechen War’ constituted incitement to enmity and that the expression ‘the Putin regime’ had the hallmarks of extremism, since ‘Putin’ was not written with a capital letter.

The European Court of Human Rights found Russia in violation of the European Convention over the conviction for non-existent incitement and extremism and awarded Dmitriyevskiy over 13 thousand euros in compensation.  The Court was scathing on the subject of Teslenko’s ‘assessment’.

At one level, we are dealing with straight corruption, in that ‘experts’ provide whatever assessment is required.  If a construction company wants to demolish a building of historic or cultural significance, they will find and commission an ‘expert’ to claim that the building was in dangerous condition.

In all the cases of political persecution in occupied Crimea, as well as those on the Dissernet.org website, the ‘experts’ have also provided what was required of them.  This, however, is a more specific form of corruption since the supposed experts must  know that their falsified and far-fetched ‘opinions’ will be used to get convictions and long prison sentences.  Why otherwise would they conceal such additional ‘jobs’?  It is excellent that Dissernet will be exposing them, however there are also grounds in all of the cases involving political persecution of Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainians in Crimea for seeking Ukrainian and international sanctions against them.

Russia’s persecution of human rights activist Emir-Usein Kuku; Muslim Aliev; Refat Alimov; Inver Bekirov; Arsen Dzhepparov and Vadym Siruk

The six men were charged with involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a peaceful Muslim organization which is legal in Ukraine and which is not known to have committed any acts of terrorism anywhere in the world.  Russia is, however, using a secret 2003 Supreme Court ruling that unwarrantedly declared Hizb ut-Tahrir to be ‘terrorist’ as justification for huge sentences on ‘terrorism’ charges. 

Since there is no evidence to back the charges in these cases, the FSB commissions ‘experts’ to listen to illicit tapes of the men’s conversations and find ‘proof’ of involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir. 

The ‘experts’ in this case were Yulia Vladimirovna Osheyeva;  Timur Zakirovich Urazmetov; Yelena Yevgenievna Khazimullina; and Yulia Sergeyevna Fomina,

from the Bashkortostan State Pedagogical University. 

The Dissernet assessment finds that they claimed evidence that was not present in the tapes and arbitrarily paraphrased them before then claiming that their interpretation ‘proved’ the men’s involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Citing some kind of ‘previous experience of expert analysis”, the ‘experts’ claimed to see references to a code of administrative rules associated with Hizb ut-Tahrir, while acknowledging that there was no actual mention of this on the recording.

A direct call to not take part either in pro-Ukrainian or pro-Russian activities is somehow construed by the experts as being a covert call to war with Russia.  This cannot be explained in any other way than evidence that the authors of the assessment are clearly inclined towards assuming guilt.”

Timur Urazmetov’s professional qualifications do not qualify him to give the expert assessment which he provided. At the same time, question No. 1, put to the linguists, asks about how people are drawn into the activities of an organization, which was far beyond the scope of their linguistic expertise.

Dissernet also considers the expert opinions used in other cases reported here.

Natalya Sharina

The 59-year-old former Head of the Ukrainian Literature Library in Moscow was convicted of ‘anti-Russian extremism’ after being charged, over material in the library, with ‘inciting national enmity’ as well as of denigrating a group of people (i.e. Russians) on the grounds of nationality.

By the time the case came to trial, the ‘investigators’ had come up with 25 pieces of material, including three issues of a Ukrainian children’s journal removed during the original search of the library.  The prosecution’s ‘expert’ Yevgeny Fyodorovich  Tarasov  noted criticism of the USSR’s actions with respect to Ukraine in some of the periodical journals and found extremism in the use of negative adjectives describing bodies of Soviet power and the actions of the Soviet regime (‘Russian imperialism’, ‘Soviet occupation’, and others).  He found extremism in one issue of the children’s journal Barvinok because of a story in which, quoting his words, “the war in Ukraine is presented as a war between Ukraine and Russia which does not correspond with the facts ….”

See:  Russia convicts Ukrainian library director of ‘anti-Russian extremism’ 

Svetlana Prokopyeva 

This prosecution gained international attention because of the extraordinary claim that Prokopyeva had been ‘justifying’ terrorism through criticism of the regime following a 17-year-old’s suicide attack on an FSB office.

In criticising the ‘expert opinion’ given by  Viacheslav Nikolayevich Belousov and Alla Konstantinovna Rudenko, Dissernet notes, among other things, the extraordinarily unprofessional liberty that the two alleged experts took with interpreting the word ‘justify’.

Multiple non-expert opinions

Dissernet has also looked at three supposed experts  - Natalya Nikolaevna Kryukova; and Viktor Sergeyevich Kotelnikov, and Aleksandr Yevgenievich Tarasov from the Centre for Socio-Cultural Expert Opinions  ["Центр социокультурных экспертиз"] involved in an ‘assessment’ of the Jehovah’s Witnesses two years before Russia fully reverted to Soviet repression and banned this world faith as ‘extremist’. 

It is hardly necessary to explain the fatal flaws in any such assessment, justifying the ban.  The Centre and, specifically, Natalya Kryukova, are, in fact, notorious also for involvement in the trial of the Pussy Riot punk group and in the persecution of Russian historian of the Terror Yury Dmitriev (See: New Russian offensive to deprive imprisoned Russian Historian of the Terror Yury Dmitriev of his lawyer )

According to Larisa Melikhova from Dissernet, Kryukova is a lecturer in mathematics, with a PhD in pedagogy.  She has, nonetheless, provided supposedly ‘expert opinions’ in around 50 prosecutions (on the Jehovah’s Witnesses; the Dmitriev Case; Pussy Riot; the shocking FSB-created ‘Novoye Velichiye’ organization, and many others.

Worth noting that there are a hard core of ‘experts’, at least with respect to charges against Crimean or Russian Muslims of ‘involvement’ in the peaceful Hizb ut-Tahrir movement.  Since 2014, the sentences passed on men who are not even accused of any recognizable crime have risen sharply and the ‘experts’ must be well aware that their commissioned ‘opinions’ will mean that political prisoners face sentences of 20 years or more. 

 

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