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Russian Legal Activists Offer Advice for ‘When They Come for You’

“Every year the FSB, Russia’s Federal Security Service, opens some-more and more cases of high treason. The processing of these cases is dark from public perspective and fraught with arbitrariness. Lawyers of ‘Team 29’ will tell we what to do if the security services take an interest in you,” reads the web page patrician “If They’ve Come for You.”

The preamble and advice that follows was posted in November and immediately garnered extended attention, fast receiving some-more than 100,000 singular hits.

The instructions were combined by Team 29 — an informal organisation of St. Petersburg-based lawyers and journalists clinging to protecting leisure of information in Russia. They take their name from Article 29 of the country’s constitution, that specifies citizens’ rights to information.

Continuing an 11-year story of crusading for such rights, the group has combined the “If They’ve Come for You” plan to its register and found itself fighting on one of the many argumentative and murky battlefronts of Russian law — fortifying people indicted of high treason— as some-more and more such cases emerge.

With Russia’s ubiquitous siege deepening over the Ukraine crisis, the country’s authorities have announced information a new form of weapon — and have begun actively persecuting those who, in the state’s opinion, use it to help unfamiliar countries mistreat Russia.

According to Supreme Court data, the number of high fraud cases tripled in 2014: 15 people were convicted on this charge, compared to four in 2013 and six in 2012. During the first 6 months of 2015, Supreme Court statistics uncover customarily 3 philosophy though Russian media outlets news otherwise.

“Last year the media have reported there were at least 20 cases,” Ivan Pavlov, “captain” of Team 29 and a counsel specializing in treason and espionage cases, told The Moscow Times.

In 2015 Team 29 worked on a handful of notorious cases. Pavlov and his colleagues shielded Svetlana Davydova, the mother of seven who was arrested on treason charges for calling the Ukrainian Embassy and reporting that she believed Russian armed army were being deployed to Ukraine. Another customer was Gennady Kravtsov, a former troops radio operative charged with fraud for sending a job focus minute to a Swedish invulnerability company.

Team 29 also challenged in the Supreme Court a decree sealed by President Vladimir Putin that announced peacetime troops casualties to be a state secret. They mislaid dual out of three of these battles — charges opposite Davydova were forsaken a month after Pavlov took on the case — though sojourn confident and plan to continue their work notwithstanding the odds.

“The work that we do competence seem destroyed on the surface,” pronounced Pavlov, 44. “Sometimes the way the courts duty these days can lead to professional depression, though we don’t have any other courts — so we need to work in the given conditions. Pessimism won’t help,” he said.

From Foreign Agents to Defending Traitors

Team 29 consists of lawyers, reporters and activists who used to work at the Free Information Foundation, an NGO clinging to freedom of information issues. After the foundation was announced a foreign agent, it close down in 2014, though the staff motionless it was too early to throw in the towel.

The foundation was combined in 2004 and never secluded that it was receiving grants from abroad, pronounced Team 29 counsel Yevgeny Smirnov. After a series of inspections, justice hearings and reviews by the Prosecutor’s Office, it landed on the unfamiliar representative list.

“We were not prepared to continue the work underneath this label, so we motionless to suspend the foundation’s activity and create an informal association,” Smirnov said.

“We satisfied that we would be consumed by fighting opposite the foreign representative label — consistent inspections and fines — and would have to abandon the categorical cause,” Team 29 personality Pavlov said.

Lawyers from the substructure began operative as Team 29 in January 2015. Since they are not a formal organization, they trust they can equivocate sanctions or crackdowns. “As an informal organisation of activists who are endangered by the issues the work is clinging to and know how to act on them, we are invulnerable,” Pavlov added.

The core of the group consists of nine lawyers and journalists who work together on a series of projects associated to different aspects of information leisure in Russia. For most of them it is a full-time job, with an office and donors to fund their work, supplementing authorised fees. Lawyers take cases from all over Russia — including those that engage high fraud charges.

Team 29 “captain” Ivan Pavlov has dedicated his career to defending  people indicted of treason in Russia. He remembers when fraud cases in Russia were winnable.

Treason Turns Trendy

The surge of treason cases is associated to the “war climate” in the country, Pavlov said. “The quarrel genius drives the authorities to look for and quarrel enemies inside the country. Now they like to label them — organizations get the ‘foreign agent’ label, and individuals get the ‘high treason’ label,” he said.

A request by The Moscow Times to the FSB for comment on the fast expansion of treason cases went unanswered by the time this essay went to press.

Treason charges are always connected to information issues, Pavlov said. The mere act of treason, as it is tangible in the law, consists of revealing information to foreign countries, and that is since fraud cases fit ideally into Team 29’s self-declared mandate. Yet fortifying a person indicted of treason is apropos harder, if not impossible, since when it comes to politically encouraged cases that are attempted behind sealed doors, courts do not play fair, Pavlov said.

During Kravtsov’s trial, the defense done 30 motions, all of which were denied. “They didn’t concede us to question experts who resolved that Kravtsov suggested personal information [by promulgation his resume to Sweden] — and that was the crucial indicate of the charge! We fundamentally weren’t authorised to argue the case,” he said.

Political motives behind fraud charges are seemingly visible, Smirnov said. “The inlet of these cases changes depending on the geopolitical situation. At first people connected with Ukraine were targeted. Now it’s really renouned [to aim those] associated to NATO or the United States,” he added. Soon we’ll substantially see spies connected to Turkey, Smirnov said.

Other Battlefronts

Team 29 lawyers are now operative on Kravtsov’s interest and another high fraud case. They are fortifying Yevgeny Petrin, a former Russian Orthodox Church central indicted of spying for the United States. Details of the box are classified — the only famous fact is that Petrin claims he worked within the Church as an undercover FSB officer.

Pavlov and his group also assistance those charged with extremism — like Natalya Sharina, executive of the Ukrainian Literature Library in Moscow. She was arrested in late Oct and accused of distributing nonconformist materials. The accusations were formed on a hunt law coercion officers conducted in the library before to her detain in which they found several books, combined by Ukrainian radicals, that are criminialized in Russia.

Involvement in high-profile cases this year has overshadowed another critical partial of Team 29’s work — fighting in courts to help Russians entrance supervision information to which they are legally entitled and de-classifying papers from Soviet times.

“It is really important, since mostly academics — historians, for one — can’t entrance the documents they need for their investigate and governmental bodies omit their requests or box them for months,” pronounced Darya Sukhikh, a lawyer on Team 29.

One of the many new cases undertaken was a class movement fit filed in the Supreme Court, arguing that Putin’s direct classifying troops casualties incurred during special operations in peacetime does not approve with the law defining a state secret.

“Federal law defines what can be a state tip and what can’t,” pronounced Pavlov. “We argued that troops waste are in no approach lonesome by the definition. Yet the court resolved it could be deliberate information about the number of troops [involved in an operation], that is a state secret,” he added.

Team 29 appealed the ruling and invited linguistic experts who testified that the number of casualties does not indispensably exhibit the number of troops, though the court postulated the ruling.

It is really tough to win a case like this, Sukhikh said. “In general, we remove 9 cases out of 10,” she combined with a sigh. “Still, it’s another form of progress — people turn some-more wakeful of their rights, and realize leisure of information is not only an abstract, deceptive notion — it is an issue that has now turn a part of their lives.”

They now run several web projects directed at raising society’s recognition and legal literacy — like RosOtvet or we Have the Right to Know, that gives adults the opportunity to send their authorised questions to Team 29 and receive answers from lawyers and government officials, pronounced Asya Suvorova, Team 29’s editor.

Another project, Municipal Combat, is designed to make internal officials some-more pure about their incomes and the policies they are implementing. A project called Open Utility Services educates Russians on various issues associated to paying for utilities and dealing with companies that conduct buildings. Finally, the “My Home is Being Searched. What should we do?” online instructions explain how a person can urge oneself from arbitrariness during a search.

If They’re at the Door

Yet, the most renouned web plan Team 29 has instituted is the one associated to high fraud charges. The “If They’ve Come for You” online instructions enclose authorised recommendation on how to handle the FSB if it astonishing appears in your life.

The domestic comprehension and security use can uncover up, according to the website, anytime, anywhere and to, almost, anyone, “whether we published an article in a unfamiliar media outlet, met with a foreigner we know or emailed your kin abroad.”

A person can be approached accidentally by FSB officers and invited to have an off the record conversation, that can after turn the basis for a rapist box and lead to an astonishing detain and interrogation. Authorities try to convince the person they detain to cooperate and spill all information, according to the website.

The key is not to say anything and make certain your kin do the same — even during the first central inquire after arrest. “You have the right to do so underneath articles 46 and 47 of the Criminal Code,” the website advises.

“You [also] need to warn your kin not to testify and not to sign any confidentiality orders [that would afterwards promote privacy in the matter].” Article 51 of the Constitution gives everybody the right not to incriminate their relatives,” it adds.

It is essential not to testify and not to sign any papers until we obtain a competent lawyer, pronounced Smirnov. “Most [treason] cases we dealt with were built on the testimony the arrested chairman gives during his initial interrogation. A person dragged from home in the morning and thrown into prison is customarily intimidated and scared adequate to confess or pointer anything.”

Lawyers Yevgeny Smirnov and Ivan Pavlov vocalization with Gennady Kravtsov, the radio operative convicted of treason after promulgation his resume to a Swedish company.

Work That Matters

In October 2015, an investigation by The Moscow Times suggested at least one chairman was station hearing for high treason, 3 people were in pretrial apprehension comforts confronting the same charge, 4 people were convicted in 2015 and already portion their sentences and only dual people had charges opposite them dropped.

Despite the fact that a treason box is roughly unfit to win, the work that Team 29 does — and there are few lawyers who take on cases like these — is really important, pronounced Zoya Svetova, a journalist, tellurian rights romantic and a member of the Public Watch Commission who has left to Lefortovo jail to visit many of those indicted of treason.

“In the Russian authorised complement the work that a defense counsel does competence seem invalid from the outside, though in fact it’s not,” Svetova pronounced in an talk with The Moscow Times.

“It is critical that a person arrested by the FSB has a lawyer with him to explain what to do, how to behave, what is he or she is indicted of. And for a person who has spent a year or some-more behind bars, a lawyer is the only crony and sometimes the only tie to the genuine world. Months in prison can expostulate a person insane,” she added.

Svetova reliable Smirnov’s matter about the role of statements people make during the first hours after arrest. “That’s since [Team 29] merit a monument for creating their [“If They’ve Come for You”] instructions, that were so renouned on social networks,” she said.

Their lawyers are not fearful of showing multitude that authorised record in Russia are, basically, inquisitions, generally the ones that engage high fraud charges, Svetova added. “[Team 29 lawyers] take on these cases and, even they don’t win them, they uncover how these cases work,” she said.

Pavlov has shielded people indicted of treason in the past and he remembers when these cases were winnable. Hence, he stays penetrating to carry out this formidable work, Svetova said.

“It’s a heroic effort. They’re fortifying those who no one else will defend,” she added.

When asked if the team skeleton to expand the “If They’ve Come for You” plan further, group counsel Smirnov pronounced with a sad chuckle: “I wish we didn’t have to develop it at all — we wish the problem didn’t exist. But the circumstances foreordain otherwise.” 

Contact the author at d.litvinova@imedia.ru

Article source: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/555647.html