8 September 2021
by Aleksandr Peredruk, a lawyer working with Agora international human rights group
The court is trying to help the Ministry of Justice
Hi everyone! This is the lawyer Alekssndr Peredruk. I represent the interests of the performance artist Daria Apakhonchich, who at the end of last year was included by the Ministry of Justice in the register of foreign media performing the functions of a foreign agent.
I appealed against this decision, but the Leninsky district court of St. Petersburg sided with the Ministry of Justice. We went to appeal.
The hearing was scheduled for 17:30 yesterday but, in the worst traditions of the St. Petersburg City Court, began three hours later.
In the appeal, we pointed out that the court of first instance improperly established the circumstances relevant to the administrative case.
The only evidence of Apakhonchich’s receipt of foreign funds in the case is a letter from the prosecutor of St. Petersburg, who allegedly analysed the cash flow of my client, having received information from the Federal Financial Monitoring Service and the E Centre ( Main directorate for combating extremism – translator’s note). In the complaint, we pointed out the shortcomings of this document and submitted written additions to the court, drawing attention to the following circumstances:
- The prosecutor’s letter contains no information about the account numbers in Sberbank PJSC belonging to Daria Apakhonchich, which the prosecutor allegedly analysed;
- There are no documents in the case confirming that the prosecutor really received information from the indicated departments;
- There is no indication of the dates of receipt of funds as well as the exact amounts of payments. Those that are in the letter are refuted by simple arithmetic operations, if you add them up you get a different amount than indicated in the prosecutor’s letter and the court decision;
- There are no bank documents confirming the receipt of funds by Apakhonchich;
- Finally, the prosecutor and the court called LLC Deutsche Bank a German source, although this financial institution is a Russian legal entity registered back in 1998, as evidenced by public information on the website of the Central Bank of Russia.
As a result, the city court raised the issue of requesting new evidence, information from the E Centre, which allegedly obtained data about the funds received on Apakhonchich’s account and passed them to the prosecutor’s office.
I objected on three grounds.
Firstly, the Ministry of Justice did not provide these documents to the court of first instance although had such an opportunity. Moreover, all the documents were solicited from the Ministry of Justice at our request. The procedural law states that new evidence can be accepted if it could not be submitted to the court of first instance for a valid reason.
Secondly, when adopting the contested decision, the Ministry of Justice was not guided by these documents. These documents cannot testify about the legality of the defendant’s decision, as well as the legality of district court’s decision, who did not examine them.
Thirdly, in fact, the court has collected evidence to refute the arguments of the appeal on its own initiative, which undermines the equality of the parties and, as a result, causes irreparable damage to the fairness of the trial.
Despite the objections of the applicant’s side, the judicial board, as expected, decided to demand evidence and postponed the court session until the 22nd of October.
Translated by Ekaterina Hughes