25 April 2022
by Aleksandr Podrabinek
On 25 April Moscow City Court heard the appeal of Vladimir Kara-Murza and his lawyer Vadim Prokhorov against the decision by the Khamovniki court to jail Kara-Murza for 15 days on a charge of disobeying police orders. The ‘act of disobedience’, you will recall, took place on 11 April when Kara-Murza, in the courtyard outside his house, ‘changed his trajectory and accelerated his speed,’ causing some police officers who ‘accidentally’ happened to be nearby, along with a number of unidentified people in plain clothes, to suspect he was intending to commit an illegal act.
While the Khamovniki trial had an air of absurdity, the appeal at Moscow City Court turned out to be simply a nightmare. Not in terms of the judicial decision and the sentence – the appeal was dismissed and no one had expected anything different – but in terms of the circumstances of the trial. It was truly a masterclass in lawlessness!
The hearing started two hours late, which is now common, following the example set by the ‘president’ of the country. Volodya Kara-Murza, wearing two pairs of handcuffs, was brought into the courtroom by four police officers. One pair of handcuffs was fastened on both wrists of the ‘criminal’ while with the other pair he was handcuffed to one of the officers. In the first motion he brought in the proceedings, the lawyer Prokhorov asked that the handcuffs be removed from his client. The motion was refused on the grounds that the question was not within the competence of the court. So Kara-Murza had to write motions and sign documents with practically two hands. If you haven’t tried it, make sure you practice!
WITHOUT WATER AND WITHOUT THE RIGHT TO REMOVE HANDCUFFS
Annoyed by his helplessness on the issue of handcuffs, Judge Ilya Kozlov decided to get his own back in his dealings with the defendant, his lawyer and the members of the public present in the courtroom. After the lawyer requested a 10-minute break for a confidential conversation with his client, the judge suddenly, out of the blue, began yelling at the lawyer, and so loudly that he could have been held administratively liable under the law on silence.
Vadim Prokhorov, like everyone else in the courtroom, at first was somewhat taken aback, and then pointed out to the judge the need to behave with dignity. He made this remark to the judge at about the same level of decibels as the judge had spoken. This made some impression on Kozlov who even observed, with some resentment in his voice, that the lawyer was yelling at him, too.
Having failed to get the lawyer to capitulate, Kozlov moved on to the public. He forbade one lady to write anything on her laptop. Another gentleman he scolded for daring to read a message on his smartphone. He explained at length, in detail and with feeling, that no one in the courtroom could do anything without his permission.
‘All statements and motions must be in writing only,’ the judge demanded. Kara-Murza made a request for him to be allowed to drink from his lawyer’s water bottle. Not daring to leave the defendant to die of thirst, Kozlov was about to allow this when the police officers accompanying the defendant intervened. ‘You can’t do that! What if the bottle belonging to the lawyer Prokhorov contains, along with mineral water, Calvados, drugs or deadly poison?’ Volodya’s mother, Elena Gordon, suggested to the officers that she give her son a drink from her own water bottle, but her proposal was not even considered. The judge ordered her to leave the courtroom.
“THE COURT IS IN MOSCOW, BUT THE JUDGE SCREAMS AS THOUGH FROM STAVROPOL”.
Judge Ilya Kozlov of the Moscow City Court is an unusual figure even for the exotic Russian justice system. He is a rather large man of indistinct gender. He has curly hair, a chubby face, a small mouth with thin lips, and empty colourless eyes hidden behind glasses. I have no doubt he was teased and bullied as a child in high school, while in adult life he asserts himself by his boorish attitude and judicial authority. ‘The court’s in Moscow, but the judge yells as though he’s in Stavropol – you can hear him at the far end of the corridor,’ say those who have had the misfortune to have run into this judge on earlier occasions.
And how was the case heard on its merits? Why, not at all! The judge turned down almost all the motions of the defence, allowing only the defendant’s mother to return to the courtroom and the tape from the street surveillance cameras that recorded Kara-Murza’s arrest to be shown. Kozlov simply refused to accept the defence’s motion for recusal, saying it should have been done at the beginning of the hearing and it was now too late. In response to Prokhorov’s attempt to explain the procedural grounds for the challenge, the judge told him to shut up and threatened to remove him from the courtroom. Women traders down at the bazaar would have looked like cultured aristocrats next to this apology for a judge.
KOZLOV’S SPECIAL LOGIC
Vladimir Kara-Murza gave a short and excellent speech. Vadim Prokhorov gave a detailed and convincing presentation of the position for the defence. While this was going on, Judge Kozlov was fiddling with his computer, switching cables on the back of the monitor, making sure he was paying no attention to the speakers. Then he announced the verdict, which of course surprised no one: to uphold the decision of Khamovniki Court. He considered the defence’s arguments that no crime had been committed as unfounded and the video recording proved nothing, since it did not show the offence being committed. Kozlov’s special logic!
This whole ridiculous case has no practical meaning for Vladimir Kara-Murza. A criminal investigation has been opened against him for discrediting the Russian army. He publicly stated that our armed forces are bombing and shelling civilian objects in Ukraine, and civilians are being killed there. The whole world knows this. All media outlets, except pro-Kremlin ones, write and talk about this. Kara-Murza faces up to 10 years in prison. Against this background, what is a miserable 15 days in jail? Nothing. Except that today Moscow City Court once again demonstrated its disrespect for the law and the poor quality of the Russian justice system.
Translated by Simon Cosgrove