31 may 2016 Taganrog City Court Judge Georgy Serebryanikov sentenced 31-year-old local resident Elizaveta Tsvetkova to a year of corrective labor for disseminating leaflets criticizing the police, reports Caucasian Knot. As published on the court’s website, the verdict stipulates that fifteen percent of Tsvetkova’s wages will be docked by the state for a year. The activist has also been charged 6,000 rubles in court costs.
Serebryanikov found the defendant guilty under Criminal Code Article 281.2 (incitement of hatred or enmity toward the social group “police officers”), which stipulates a maximum punishment of four years in a penal colony.
During closing arguments on May 16, Taganrog Deputy Chief Prosecutor Vadim Dikaryov asked that Tsetkova be sentenced to one year in a work-release colony. Serebryanikov thus imposed a lighter sentence than was requested by the prosecution.
The activist, however, pleaded not guilty. During her closing statement, on May 27, she stressed she had protested the illegal actions of law enforcement officers. She reminded Judge Serebryanikov of high-profile criminal cases against policemen, including the cases of Major Denis Yevsyukov and the Dalny police station in Kazan.
Lawyer Yuri Chupilkin had also asked the court to acquit his client.
Initially, the reading of the verdict in Tsvetkova’s trial had been scheduled for May 30. However, an hour before the scheduled hearing, the activist was called and informed it would be postponed. The reasons for the delay were not explained to the defendant.
It is unclear whether Tsvetkova would appeal the verdict.
Charges were filed against the activist in January 2015. According to investigators, Tsvetkova downloaded a leaflet criticizing the police from the Vkontakte social network, printed it out, and the day before Law Enforcement Officers Day, in November 2014, posted it at public transport stops and on street lamps.
The investigation was completed in August 2015. However, in September, the acting Taganrog city prosecutor uncovered numerous legal violations in the investigation, refused to confirm the indictment, and sent the case back to the Russian Investigative Committee. The indictment was confirmed the second time round, in November.
However, investigators ignored a sociological forensic study, carried out by Professor Vladimir Kozyrkov at Nizhny Novgorod University. Professor Kozyrkov rejected claims that police officers constitute a social group.
At preliminary hearings in December, Chupilkin insisted on striking a number of pieces of evidence from consideration, in particular, studies done by the regional interior ministry. Judge Serebryanikov, however, rejected the defense’s motions.
The hearing on the merits began on January 15, 2016. During the April 20 hearing, Viktor Chernous, a sociology professor at Southern Federal University in Rostov-on-Don, subpoenaed as an expert witness, also testified that police officers were not a social group, and consequently there had been nothing criminally culpable in the actions imputed to the defendant.
In turn, Elizaveta Koltunova, an assistant professor of linguistics at Nizhny Novgorod University, who was subpoenaed as an expert witness, noted that she could find nothing extremist about the leaflet that had led to the charges filed against Tsvetkova.
Rosfinmonitoring has included Tsvetkova in its list of terrorists and extremists and blocked her bank account.
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An excerpt from the closing statement of activist Elizaveta Tsvetkova (Taganrog) at her trial on charges of extremism, May 27, 2016:
I still think that escapades like my own, the case in Stavropol involving the [alleged] offense to the feelings of religious believers, and other cases, have caused no real harm, but the outcome is that our law enforcement system acquires the image of a satrap for some reason. In addition, people are distracted from real dangers such as identifying terrorists. Perhaps I am an overly sensitive person, but it seems to me that one cannot remain indifferent after such high-profile cases as that of Major Yevsyukov, who gunned down civilians in a supermarket, and the case of torture at the Dalny police station, where a man died.
These cases would cause anyone to have a negative attitude towards the illegal actions of police officers. I remain convinced that cases of bribery, torture, and murder must be stopped. People should not be afraid of police officers who break the law and engage in rough justice, but should put a stop to their actions, report their illegal activists, and publicly criticize police officers. Only then we will live in a country under the rule of law and be able to improve life in Russia. Cliquishness and special privileges are always abnormal and generally unfair, especially when it comes to such questions. A divided society cannot function normally. We must realize that if people are be unable to stand up for their rights in any area, if they are forced to put up with lawlessness in policing, housing, and health care, we will never live in a civilized, well-developed country.