15 February 2020
Hi, my name is Lera Vetoshkina
I’m a lawyer with Team 29, and this is my first message to you.
At the start of this week, I found myself thinking that I was afraid to go on social media. It’s like you’re constantly expecting news of the latest unfair conviction, unjustified detention, or misconduct by security officials.
Then, I heard the phrase, ‘Facebook depression’ and I knew that this is just what I (and probably many others) have, when we endlessly comment and talk on social media about how bad everything is. I’m fed up of it and have decided to find something nice instead.
It all began on Monday, when they delivered the verdict in the Penza trial of the ‘Set’’ [Network] case. Much has already been said about this: the torture, the disproportionate prison terms, the lack of sufficient evidence, and, worst of all, this could affect every one of us. Everyone who’s involved in a public interest campaign and is socially active in some way. And that’s really frightening.
It’s also a kind of legal hellscape – you cannot base a guilty verdict on confessions obtained under torture, unsupported by anything else. But that’s what the judge managed to do.
I hope that none of you will have need of this, but here you go – we have written about what to do when they come for you. It’s always best to be prepared for this.
Incidentally, in cases like that, security officials love to use information obtained from the defendants’ social media. Some apps will give up your details on request. We tell you how this happens and who does it in our new reference guide.
Towards the end of the week, though, something good happened – just what I was after. On Wednesday, our senior lawyer, Maks Olenichev, and I returned from St. Petersburg City Court with good news. The court had ordered the Ministry of the Interior to give our client Ilya Gendelev sight of the archived case files of his grandfather. This was also made possible due to the legal position of the Russian Supreme Court in another of the Team’s cases. Earlier, the legal authority in question had not granted access to personal cases relating to unrehabilitated victims of Soviet terror, and it hadn’t been possible to challenge such refusal of consent in the courts. Now, things have been done differently, and this is a step – though small – towards openness. Very soon the Gendelev family will finally be able to find out about their relative, which means that our work will not have been in vain.
I think that the best way to get over depression of any kind is good news. And I hope that next week will bring us all much more news like that.
Lera and Team 29
Translated by Lindsay Munford