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Defend Lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin!

07.03.2007    source:
Vera Vasilyeva
Mikhail Trepashkin, Russian lawyer serving a sentence on trumped up and absurd charges, pressed after his investigation into the apartment bombings in 1999 in Moscow, needs the attention of the world. Every political prisoner ignored convinces the Russian authorities that they can act with impunity!

A meeting in support of Mikhail Trepashkin took place on 6 March in the Andrei Sakharov Museum and Public Centre “Peace, Progress and Human Rights”. As well as members of the Public Committee in support of Mikhail Trepashkin, the meeting was attended by Trepashkin’s lawyer Sergei Brovhenko, the head of the movement “For Human Rights” Lev Ponomaryov, member of the Scientists’ Defence Committee Ernst Cherny, Father Gleb Yakunin, as well as other members of civic society and journalists. The meeting was held on the eve of the decisive court hearing into the “Trepashkin case” scheduled for 9 March 2007.

Mikhail Trepashkin was sentenced in May 2005 to 4 years imprisonment in a  colony - settlement. He was found guilty of possessing and transporting ammunition (a cartridge) and in disclosing state secrets (giving the name of a former KGB agent to his former boss in the FSB [the successor to the KGB])

Many well-known human rights defenders believe that the real reason for the charges against Trepashkin lie in his independent investigation into the apartment bombings in Moscow in 1999.  Trepashkin believes that the FSB was implicated in the crime. He also acted as lawyer for two sisters whose mother was killed in the bombing.

In August 2005 Trepashkin received conditional early release after a ruling by the Tagilstroevsky district court in Nizhny Tagil . however by September of the same year FSB agents had forced him back to the colony and the court ruling had been revoked by a higher court.

At the present time Mikhail Trepashkin is serving his sentence in Nizhny Tagil which in itself arouses criticism from human rights groups. For this reason, Mikhail Trepashkin, father of five (two adopted children), is restricted in his right to visits from his family. This choice of place is also in violation of Article 73 of the Criminal Procedure Code which states that a prisoner should serve their sentence on the territory of the subject of the Russian Federation where the person lived or was convicted.

Mikhail Trepashkin suffers from bronchial asthma and needs a proper medical examination to ascertain the degree of his breathing difficulties. This is vital both for prescribing the necessary medicine and for determining whether he should continue serving his sentence. Third and fourth degrees of bronchial asthma constitute grounds for release.

However the administration of the colony, Lev Ponomaryov explained, is doing all it can to hinder Trepashkin’s medical examination by independent doctors not connected with the Federal Service for the Execution of Sentences. The prison doctors claim that he is receiving all necessary medication.

On 9 March Tagilstroevsky district court in Nizhny Tagil is to decide whether to transfer Trepashkin to a normal regime colony. The formal grounds for tightening the regime of imprisonment are provided by the colony administration which claims infringements of discipline.

The Public Committee in support of Mikhail Trepashkin asserts that such infringements “have been invented in order to ensure the prisoner’s slow murder”.

According to Lev Ponomaryov, in the general regime colony, with the tacit support of the management, prisoners from the so-called “discipline and order section” subject other prisoners to beating and other forms of ill-treatment

Member of the Scientists’ Defence Committee Ernst Cherny, drew a parallel between the pressure on Trepashkin and the unwarranted persecution of Russian scientists (Igor Sutyagin, Valentin Danilov and others), without any proof accused by the FSB of state treason in the form of spying and divulging state secrets.  He believed that it would be naïve to think that the pressure on Trepashkin was at the initiative of the colony administration.

Sergei Brovchenko believes that in the present situation where the Russian judiciary is dependent on the executive branch of power,  only the “whole world” can save Mikhail Trepashkin by making as many people as possible aware of the case and its development. He also stressed that the court proceedings in this case is crucial since it may create a precedent and affect the position of other prisoners.

(slightly abridged)

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