Freed! Court releases Maxim Reznik
The St Petersburg City Court has declared the arrest of Maxim Reznik, leader of the St Petersburg branch of the Yabloko Party to have been unlawful. Reznik was accused of using force against police officers and insulting them. The judge ordered that Reznik be released and that the case be sent back for a new investigation.
On 4 March 2008 the Dzherzhinsky Court in St Petersburg remanded Reznik in custody for two months. The St Petersburg Prosecutors office had initiated criminal proceedings under Article 318 (using force against representatives of the authorities) and 319 (insulting a representative of the authorities).
As reported here, this case was so brazen that outrage was expressed widely. Reznik was detained hours after the voting in the Presidential elections ended on the night between 2 and 3 March. Some people on the street were fighting and he tried to help, and ended up being charged with resisting the police. Reznik has consistently maintained that the whole thing was set up to prevent him taking part in a march of those in dissent scheduled for 3 March.
Protest has been strong, with an appeal signed initially by prominent human rights defenders Yelena Bonner, Sergei Kovalyov and others, gaining a large number of signatures over the last weeks.
An appeal was also sent to the President by prominent writers, actors and other members of the St Petersburg intelligentsia.
It should be mentioned that there have been a number of detentions of those taking part in an ongoing single-person picket in support of Maxim Reznik in Moscow. A typical ploy used here and on a worrying number of other occasions is to bring in provocateurs to either cause trouble or simply raise numbers, enabling the police to intervene (since in todays Russia only single-person pickets can be held without permission, the latter not being at all guaranteed.
We hope that the judge today remembered his or her professional calling, but we are also convinced of the need to make all aware that there are people in Russia and throughout the world who will not remain silent.