31 March 2023
by Aleksandr Podrabinek
On 31 March the trial started as planned at 11 am, which is surprising since until now all sessions started late. The defence presented its evidence. This sounds a little strange for a trial in which evidence has no meaning whatsoever, and the criminal charges are not just badly stitched together, but based on insane laws and their even crazier interpretations.
Nevertheless, Vladimir Kara-Murza and his lawyer, Vadim Prokhorov, decided to put up a competent legal challenge to the judicial arbitrariness, something reminiscent of the dissident practice of legal behaviour in unlawful circumstances. In keeping with their chosen strategy, today the defence invited two of its witnesses: the editor-in-chief of Novaya gazeta and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dmitry Muratov, and Grigory Yavlinsky, co-founder of the Yabloko party.
The witnesses came, but it was of little use. Judge Podoprigorov did not allow them to give their testimony in full.
Dmitry Muratov was going to tell the court about Kara-Murza’s journalistic experience, about his professional honesty and personal integrity. About the fact that journalism in Russia today is practically dead, that 265 media resources have been shut down, and that 7,000 Internet media outlets have been blocked. Grigory Yavlinsky intended to talk about Kara-Murza’s political experience, about his human dignity and dedication to Russia’s future. The court considered all of this completely unnecessary since its purpose is not to establish the judicial truth, but to hand down a politically motivated guilty verdict.
The court dismissed all the questions Kara-Murza’s lawyer wanted to ask the witnesses. The defence was essentially deprived of ay opportunity to examine witnesses and add evidence of the innocence of the accused to the case materials. Prosecutor Loktionov had no questions at all: Judge Podoprigorov reserved the pleasure of interrogating the witnesses to himself. Despite everything, he probably still considered it not quite good form to conduct a trial without the witnesses being asked a single question.
However, his questions were superficial and purely formal in nature, concerning only the character of the defendant.
After the ‘interrogations’ the witnesses went outside and answered the journalists’ questions in the street. They said almost nothing about what had taken place in the courtroom, explaining that they had signed non-disclosure agreements. Responding to the reporters’ questions, Dmitry Muratov said Kara-Murza was in excellent intellectual shape, was in good form, and asked sharp and clearly formulated questions. He stressed that Vladimir has inherited the dissident tradition of openness, always ready to answer for his words and has never engaged in underground activities.
He was not able to say anything about Kara-Murza’s physical condition. Grigory Yavlinsky told journalists that after almost a year in prison, Kara-Murza is not looking his best and that he (Yavlinsky) is very worried about his health.
The question of the defendant’s health was also raised in court. The defence petitioned for a medical examination to be conducted and for the results of his examination at the City Clinical Hospital No. 20 the previous Monday to be presented to the court. The court rejected both defence motions without, according to the lawyer, giving a convincing explanation why. Indeed, in general the court does not bother explaining its decisions at all. Presiding Judge Podoprigorov behaves as the real master of the trial proceedings who can do whatever he wants without explaining the reasons or legal grounds. Such overbearing behaviour is typical of judges in countries where justice is degenerating into an instrument of political repression by the state.
The next hearing in the trial of Vladimir Kara-Murza is set for Monday, 3 April. The defence will continue to present its evidence.
Translated by Simon Cosgrove