Investigators Refuse to File Charges in Case of Wounded Journalist, Again

Aleksandr Artemev. Source: Aleksandr Artemev's personal archiveThe newspaper Kommersant is reporting that Russia’s Investigative Committee has once again refused to file criminal charges in the case of the beating of journalist Aleksandr Artemev, whose arm was broken by police officers in May 2010 after an opposition rally. A Moscow City Court ruling to reexamine the case and bring charges against the perpetrators has come to naught. Artemev’s lawyers are preparing to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

Artemev’s lawyer, Ilnur Sharapov, told Kommersant that federal investigator Maxim Pryashka called him on May 11 to say he was denying his motion to file charges in connection with the case. “He didn’t explain why,” the lawyer added.

The attack on Aleksandr Artemev became one of the largest scandals involving the police in Russia in 2010. On May 31 of that year, Artemev went to a rally held under the Strategy 31 campaign on Moscow’s Triumfalnaya Square – not as a journalist, but as an activist with the movement Solidarity. He was detained almost immediately and a police officer broke his arm while dragging him out of a police bus. The Public Council on the Moscow City Police demanded an investigation of the incident, after which the police issued Artemev an official apology.

However, even after studying three volumes of the collected case materials, investigators from the Investigative Committee still could not establish the identity of the law enforcement officer who broke the journalist’s arm and refused to file criminal charges as Artemev demanded. The journalist appealed this decision in the Zamoskvoretsky Court at the end of last August, which was denied. He later appealed to the Moscow City Court, which in March 2011 ordered the case to be reexamined on the basis that the lower court “did not analyze the materials.” But the Zamoskvoretsky Court never began the reexamination, as the Investigative Committee annulled its own decision to refuse to file charges and sent the materials to be newly investigated the day before court proceedings were scheduled, April 29.

As Sharapov told Kommersant, the new investigation lasted only a few days – investigators did not provide a specific date that a decision would be made. “In the meantime, we cannot examine the materials of the investigation, because, officially, it is still ongoing,” he said. “The decision still has to be verified by investigators in the Main Investigative Branch of the Moscow Branch of the Federal Investigative Committee (GSUSKRFpM). One way or another, we’re going to file another appeal with the Zamoskvoretsky Court and examine the investigator’s case during the proceedings.” The newspaper was not able to reach Artemev for comment, as the journalist was on vacation.

According to Kommersant, nobody from GSUSKRFpM answered the phone on Wednesday. Investigator Pryashka refused to speak to the newspaper and the Moscow City Police press service had no comment.

“The reason they don’t want to start the case is banal – the internal affairs agencies don’t like to wash their dirty laundry in public,” says Aleksei Simonov, head of the Foundation for the Defense of Openness. “Any development can only come from pressure from public opinion or the media.”

According to Dmitri Agranovsky, a lawyer who has worked with oppositionists, it was under this kind of pressure that the Moscow City Court ruled to have the case reexamined. “The court was forced to pretend that it was making a compromise with the journalist,” he explained. “But what’s going to happen next is not his concern. Now the investigator has every opportunity to ‘wear out’ the case and force the lawyers to run around in circles. I know many cases where such rewriting ended in nothing. And after some time it will be simpler for them to refuse Aleksandr Artemev’s request to file criminal charges – the statute of limitations will be up.” In Agranovsky’s opinion, the journalist is now better off appealing to the European Court of Human Rights. Sharapov confirmed that they intend to.