12.10.2007 | Halya Coynash

When no news is an outrage


A Russian court hearing did not take place on 10 October. As a news item this has certain problems which may well be what the Russian authorities are hoping for. Nothing new to say keeps the journalists away, presumably that’s the logic.
This is while Mikhail Trepashkin spends another month in illegal solitary confinement. The hearing which did not happen was to consider Trepashkin’s appeal against a court ruling in March moving him to a harsher regime penal colony. That ruling was acted upon immediately before it had any chance to come into legal force. In fact, it is still not in force, since the appeal has not yet been considered/ Nonetheless, Trepashkin has now spent almost seven months in solitary confinement in conditions which could be seriously detrimental to his fragile health. He has a form of bronchial asthma which may well constitute grounds for his release according to Russian legislation. The authorities are continuing to claim that he is in good health and international structures, such as the EU, are continuing to nod their heads when givien such assurances.
Until the next scheduled hearing in early November, there is really very little to say. Mr Trepashkin’s lawyer in the Urals in fact believes that the next hearing may not happen in order to ensure that his client remains in solitary confinement until his sentence ends on 30 November 2007.
Only two months remain, so nothing to bellow about? In 2007, 16 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and 20 years since the last political prisoners were released under Gorbachev’s perestroika, I would beg to differ.
It is possible that Russian television, if it mentions Trepashkin at all, presents him as a criminal. That, after all, was standard practice in the Soviet times which the channels seem to be reliving. Russian and international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, as well as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and others have concluded that the charges brought against Mr Trepashkin and the punishment meted out bear all the hallmarks of being politically motivated.
The eye becomes tired reading the same information again and again. We will therefore not repeat what we have reported many times. Please press the links below and pass them on to others.
In Soviet times there was a large international network of organizations ensuring that political prisoners were not ignored. Myroslav Marynovych, one of the founding members of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group spoke of the importance such attention from the world had for him and his fellow prisoners.
Whatever the political coating, political prisoners remain just that – deprived of their liberty for daring to speak out and say things the authorities do not want to hear. And whatever that political coating, we have no right to do nothing.

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