Podcast No. 55. Simon & Sergei – with Mikhail Benyash, human rights lawyer from Sochi

This week, our guest is Mikhail Benyash. Mikhail Benyash is a lawyer from the city of Sochi in Krasnodar region. In September 2018 Mikhail Benyash was beaten and detained by police after a meeting with his client who was taking part in a peaceful protest in Krasnodar. The court jailed him for 14 days and in addition sentenced him to 40 hours of compulsory work for disobeying a police officer and violating the rules on public protests. Amnesty International declared Mikhail Benyash a prisoner of conscience and called for his immediate release. In 2018, Mikhail Benyash was charged under Article 318(1) of the Russian Criminal Code (“Use of violence against a public official”) and in October 2019 he was sentenced to a fine of 30,000 roubles.

Issues discussed in the podcast include: Mikhail Benyash’s criminal prosecution; cases he has worked on in recent years; factors determining the outcome of a court case; the degree of independence of the courts in Russia; specifics of the Krasnodar region; reasons why Mikhail Benyash became a lawyer and works on human rights; the role of the European Court of Human Rights; changes introduced to the Russian Constitution last year; the return of Aleksei Navalny to Russia; the future of human rights in Russia.

The podcast is in the Russian language.

You can listen to the podcast here:

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The music, from Stravinsky’s Elegy for Solo Viola, is performed for us by Karolina Herrera.

Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: “In the autumn of 2018 I wrote to Boris Grebenshikov about Mikhail Benyash, the Krasnodar lawyer who was detained and beaten by police in September 2018 but released on bail a few weeks later. Mikhail’s release was helped – among other things – by the support of lawyers, the reaction of the Federal Bar Association and the fact that Amnesty International recognised him as a prisoner of conscience. Mikhail Benyash, a man of fortitude and courage, wrote to me on his release: ‘In the detention centre I often read ‘The Movement Towards Spring’ to myself. It struck me that the young BG was able to understand and feel things that only came to me in prison, and only after my second visit. If you know him, please pass these words on to him.’ I relayed Mikhail’s words to the musician. Boris Grebenshchikov answered my letter briefly but succinctly: ‘Thank you, Sergei! It’s worth a lot.’ Last Sunday, Simon Cosgrove and I spoke with Mikhail Benyash about many things: his work, Navalny flying to Moscow at that very time, the current Russian justice system, the difficult work of a human rights lawyer – in other words, about the very words of that very song by BG: ‘Some people have a tendency to sing. / Some of them to their detriment’.”

Simon Cosgrove adds: If you want to listen to this podcast on the podcasts.com website and it doesn’t seem to play, please download by clicking on the three dots to the right. A summary of some of the week’s events in Russia relevant to human rights can be found on our website here.

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