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Moscow court holds first hearing in "antifascist extremist community" case

After two weeks ago the case against Nizhny Novgorod antifascists (the Antifa-RASH case) was sent back to prosecutor's office "to remove doubts, irregularities and obstacles" by a court, which is not likely to hear that case again, the case against Moscow-based antifascist Igor Kharchenko may set a precedent. The case, which is being heard by Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky district court, includes charges under Article 282, Part 2 of the Russian Criminal Code (participation in extremist community). 

Apart from extremism, Kharchenko is also charged under Article 111, Part 2 (intended grievous bodily harm), Article 115, Part 2 (intended light bodily harm) and Article 213, Part 2 (hooliganism).

According to investigators, on June 4, 2010 Igor Kharchenko "committed participation in an extremist community" (a quote from the charge sheet). Along with a group of unidentified persons, who were members of "a structural unit of the AntiFa movement, which constitutes an extremist community", Kharchenko allegedly attacked two ultra-right activists, Vladlen Sumin and Vladimir Zhidousov. During the brawl the attackers are alleged to have used knives, glass bottles and non-lethal weapons, inflicting grievous and light bodily harm. Investigators say that they did this motivated by hatred and hostility to "social group of nationalists".

First court hearing was delayed, as victims failed to appear in court.

They did not appeared at the second hearing on November 7 either. The summonses were returned after delivery terms expired.

The court session started with a small scandal. Defendant Igor Kharchenko was brought into the session hall by escort convoy accompanied by a dog. "Can you film me with the doggy?" laughing Kharchenko asked a TV cameraman who was filming him. Presence of animals has become fashionable in district-level courts when a high-profile case is being heard. Dog's presence was sharply opposed by Kharchenko's lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin, who informed the court that he does not see any justification for the dog's presence in the hall, while there are reasons for the dog to be removed, as Trepashkin suffers from a serious allergy to animal hair. After a few minutes' worth of backchat, it emerged that the dog was in the hall by virtue of Order No. 140, but as the order was classified, these justifications would not be announced. The dog was removed. 

Due to victims' failure to appear, prosecution, namely prosecutor Kazanova, suggested that their earler testimony be read. Defence and defendent were opposed, as they have a number of questions to ask from victims. Judge Tatyana Kovalevskaya rejected the prosecution's proposal. In order not to move the court session for the third time, all sides agreed to an amendment in the court procedure and to start studying documents which prosecution presented as evidence of Kharchenko's guilt. 

What was happening after that can hardly be described as "study". Prosecutor Kazanova was simply reading out the numbers of pages in the case which she said contained evidence. "Everyone is familiar with the case materials," she said. However, the feeling one would get was that Kazanova herself actually saw the materials for the first time. It sounded like that: "Volume one. Case pages 33 to 35. Protocol of inspection with a layout scheme." Or "Volume four. Recorded CD. Decree on inclusion as evidence." Lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin asked a clarification question concerning the address where crime took place (at least three locations are listed in the case), and received a judge's comment for it.  

It was not clear what motivated the prosecution when it was listing guilt evidence. Documents that were listed included Kharchenko's good conduct certificates from his employer and university, a decree on arraignment of Denis Solopov as a suspect (One of the victims, Vladlen Sumin, initially identified two of his attackers, Kharchenko and Solopov, and his testimony was confirmed by a lie detector. Then it turned out that Denis Solopov was not in Russia on the day of the attack - he was in Turkey. After the Federal Security Service (FSB) confirmed authenticity of border stamps in Solopov's passport, charges against him were dropped.), or a decree on inclusion as evidence of "knives for cutting wallpaper, cardboard and linoleum," discovered at a construction site nearby, on which "Kharchenko's fingerprints were not discovered". Lawyer Trepashkin announced that by the next court session he would prepare a motion to exclude the knives from the list of evidence, as they do not constitute any proof and are unrelated to the case. 

Prosecutor Kazanova only read a couple of documents separately and in full. They included testimony of one of the victims, Vladimir Zhidousov. He stated that he and Sumin were walking along Letnikovskaya street in the evening of June 4, 2010. They saw a group of some 30 people who were moving towards them, led by Kharchenko. They were acting rude, and were swearing. "Who are you, you right-wingers? You're done with," they told the nationalists and took out handguns. One of the bullets grazed Zhidousov's cheek. As he was falling down, he saw Kharchenko stab Sumin several times... They were shouting "You're fucked! Antifa!" 

The other document was acknowledgement of guilt from witness Barinov. He told investigator Kochergin (the fourth investigator in the case) that he voluntarily came to the Main Investigations Directorate for Moscow's Central Administrative District to tell him that on August 31, 2012, lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin forced (sic!) him and several other people to write at his dictation statements saying that they all saw Igor Kharchenko performing at a gig on the evening of June 4, 2010. 

Barinov's acknowledgement of guilt was dated October 12, 2012 - which was the day when police broke into his flat and took him for an interview. 

After the prosecution finished, lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin filed two motions on inclusion of evidence. One was a lie-detector test of witness Kamenko, who said that he saw Igor Kharchenko on stage at 1Rock Club all through the evening of June 4, and that Kharchenko did not beat Sumin or Zhidousov. Lie detector confirmed that Kamenko was telling the truth. Judge Kovalevskaya rejected the motion due to incorrect documentation and suggested that Kamenko be summoned to appear as a witness, as the same questions can be asked of him at court. The second motion, despite prosecution's objections, was approved by the court. Results of independent expert evaluation, which confirmed that there were no traces of retouching or photoshopping on photographs taken in the evening of June 4 at 1Rock Club, and that the person photographed there was indeed Igor Kharchenko, were included as evidence. 

Next court hearing is scheduled for November 27. 

From Novaya Gazeta newspaper website, Nov 7, 2012

By Nadezhda Prusenkova


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