Lev Ponomarev on the Network case: Cruelty and Silence – the FSB Throws Down a Challenge

10 February 2020

By Lev Ponomarev, chair of the national civil society organization For Human Rights, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group

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

Today, 10 February 2020, a trio of military judges in Penza pronounced the sentences in the case of the so-called terrorist organization Set’ [“Network”] (an organization banned on the territory of the Russian Federation), a prosecution based completely on torture and lies.

The procedure took half an hour altogether for all seven defendants – only the introduction and final judgment were read out.

Here are the horrific numbers:

Dmitri Pchelintsev – 18 years in a strict regime penal colony
Ilya Shakursky – 16 years in a strict regime penal colony
Andrei Chernov – 14 years in a strict regime penal colony
Maksim Ivankin – 13 years in a strict regime penal colony
Mikhail Kulkov – 10 years in a strict regime penal colony
Vasili Kuksov – 9 years in a general regime penal colony
Arman Sagynbaev – 6 years in a general regime penal colony

All in strict accordance with the prosecutor’s request – they were not even granted a traditional symbolic reduction.

We heard a detailed description, under oath in court, of the torture, of how their teeth crumbled and their mouths filled with blood. We saw members of St. Petersburg’s Public Oversight Commission declare they had found evidence of torture. An independent medical expert confirmed findings of severe burns caused by electrical current.

We saw the head of the Council on Human Rights tell Putin directly that people were afraid to investigate torture, because the one doing the torturing is the FSB.

This is not only unjust and cruel, it is an open challenge to all who consider themselves thinking people. The level of cruelty has been raised to a height never seen before. What’s next? Are we going to see young people off to life sentences or the firing squad, while we freeze fast outside the court’s iron fence?

Those who initiated the Network case, those who tortured the young men with electrical current, have said today: “We will do what we want. And what do you say to that? Just get lost, your shouts of “Shame on you!” count for nothing. We can torture. Resistance is impossible. If we want, we’ll give six-year sentences; if we want, we’ll give eighteen years. If we want, you will also be terrorists – you’ll confess to everything.”

How did we get to this point, how did it become possible? Think about it. Each of us has a duty to do more than we have done thus far. No one has the right to stand on the sidelines, or else we will all end up in the abyss.

We have seen on a number of occasions that the authorities are forced to retreat when indignation at their actions extends beyond the citizen-activist and human rights community. When the names of political prisoners and criminal cases are discussed far beyond the country’s borders. When thousands of indignant people stand on public squares. We know that this works, so why aren’t we using this?

I’m appealing to those who can reach a wider audience. Tell people about the Network case, join the civic campaign, fight for these young individuals, and fight against the use of torture and the absolute power of the security forces in general.

Electrical current and huge prison terms – that’s how the authorities fight against young people. Youth are taking to the streets, disseminating information, and going to the court in support of their peers. But where are the adults? I implore my country not to turn its children over to a monster.

The challenge must be taken up.

Translated by Mark Nuckols

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