Maria Alekhina: I have been sentenced to one year’s “restriction of freedom.” Here is my final address to the court at my trial…

10 September 2021

by Maria Alekhina, civil society activist, human rights defender

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Echo Moskvy]

The prosecution for violating Sanitary and Epidemiological Rules (Article 236 of the RF Criminal Code) is the second time I have faced a criminal case in my life. It has been almost 10 years since the first.

A criminal prosecution for your politics has stopped being shock content and become a part of the morning news. 

Back then it was a scandal — three girls in a cage for a song against Putin, now these three girls are every resident of Russia. 

Then the courts were open, now they sentence us behind closed doors — the state has walled itself off to continue a performance it is ashamed to show to an audience.

Why is it necessary to close court trials?  In order for it to seem that there is little repression, that few are imprisoned, it is necessary to imprison people in a way so that no one speaks of it. The most horrible things are those that occur in silence.  My first sentence was а message: “Don’t dare touch the state ideology.” My second sentence is: “Don’t dare at all to discuss what we do.” The lack of confidence on the part of those who put forward the accusations is based on the fact that they are not made in the name of the people.  People are not as stupid as it may seem from the heights of officialdom and the security services. People understand who persecutes and who is being persecuted, who stands for ideals and who is simply working off their time. Therefore, people simply have to be deprived of the possibility of seeing it. Walls are built by people who are afraid, discussion is forbidden by those who are doubly afraid. 

They are teaching us all to be afraid.  Do you see a cage? If you behave badly—you’ll end up in it. But a cage made of fear is worse than a cage made of glass and iron.  I know, because I was in the latter.  

I am not afraid, I know that I am not guilty. But I do not know which is the greater restriction of freedom — an electronic bracelet, or a Putin decree appointing a judge.  You will preside over as many political cases as they tell you, you will write documents that you call decisions, knowing that you did not decide anything in them — and all that to keep your seat on the bench. You said that slavery was abolished more than a century ago, but what are you then?   

You follow the formula of the camps: “You die today, I will die tomorrow.”  It is better that I behave unjustly now but hold on to my position, let someone else suffer.  Better that it be another person rather than me.  You say to us, “Nothing depends on us,” although everything depends on you as well as on us.

In my first case there were discussions about whether a political statement is a crime or not.  Now there is no discussion.  Everyone knows — they can put each of us in prison, only what no one knows is how to stop it. 

As a matter of fact, it is simple.  You have to forget the phrase “nothing depends on me” and take responsibility on yourself. That, in principle, is freedom – if, of course, anyone needs it here. 

To remain in a camp and live by camp principles or to leave it — each makes their own decision. I made my choice. Now it is your turn. 


Translated by Rights in Russia

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