In a verdict that is virtually unprecedented for the Russian opposition, Garry Kasparov has been acquitted of spurious charges by police officers that he yelled anti-governmental slogans outside a courthouse last Friday and ignored police orders to stop doing so. The judge uniquely allowed Kasparov’s defense to enter video and photo materials as evidence in the case, which proved beyond any sort of doubt that neither of these things actually happened.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MOSCOW – AUGUST 24, 2012
- Garry Kasparov was acquitted on charge of participating in an illegal rally outside of Pussy Riot courthouse on August 17, 2012. This is one of the first-ever such acquittals in the Putin era.
- Kasparov still faces the accusation of assaulting a police officer. No charges have been filed and overwhelming evidence has been published contradicting officer’s allegation.
- Kasparov will pursue charges for illegal arrest and assault by the police and for libel against the officer who accuses Kasparov of biting him on the 17th.
After nine hours in a Moscow courtroom, Garry Kasparov was acquitted of the charge he violated the law against illegal protests. Hours of witness testimony and video of Kasparov’s arrest refuted the official police reports that Kasparov was chanting slogans or resisting arrest. Kasparov’s attorney presented dozens of media reports from the day of the arrest that contradicted the official police timeline of Kasparov’s arrest and detention.
STATEMENT BY GARRY KASPAROV
First I want to say that this acquittal is not the end of the saga. While waiting for the judge’s decision, I again visited the investigator who is in charge of the assault accusation against me and my own charges of illegal arrest and assault against the police and of libel against officer Ratnikov. The authorities must decide whether to pursue the cases and whether or not to combine these cases into one. They are examining the evidence, much of which was accepted in my trial today.
I will press forward with the criminal charges against the police. My acquital can only strengthen my defense in the criminal case and my complaints. A court has decided that they arrested and asasulted an innocent man. This is no small event. It is perhaps the first time ever in Putin’s Russia that someone has been acquitted of these charges in this way. (Ironically, I was one of the first convicted under the strong new anti-protest laws, when I was jailed in 2007.) Today the judge made it clear that the police testimony was not to be trusted. She also allowed our video evidence and witnesses for the defense to an unprecedented degree.
It remains to be seen if this admirable decision was of her own conscience or if it indicates something within the institution. If it was soley the judge’s decision, we will find out soon if the district attorney’s office appeals the verdict. They have ten days to do so. Or is it possible that the authorities decided they had received enough negative publicity for one week and are attempting to show the world that Russian justice actually exists. If this is the case, it will take much more than one trial of a well-known individual with the world watching. The real test will be the many similar cases to come. We must keep watching and fighting, to keep the pressure on!
This is why I feel obliged to press criminal charges over my abuse at the hands of the police. Friends and colleagues across Russia have been convicted by false testimony just like that I faced today in court. Having this acquittal in my hands means I must push forward. Only success in punishing the officers responsible can help protect others from injustice. I was fortunate to be able to bring resources to bear and to have global support in my cause. My family and I are so grateful. I am deeply indebted to the many journalists who came forward on their own to provide videos, photos, and their personal testimony. In a country where journalists are subjected to heavy pressure, and often violence, this was a significant risk.
This result demonstrates the power of solidarity. This means more than donating money and your voice. It is a shared sentiment that freedom matters everywhere, for every person, not only in your own country. It is essential to stay involved. The more people pay attention and bring pressure from the grassroots, the more cases will end the way mine did and the fewer will result like that of Pussy Riot. Find a way to make a difference!
- Video and English transcript of Kasparov speaking to reporters outside of the court after his acquittal. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tN0735Imx6k
- Kasparov’s Facebook page, for regular updates. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Garry-Kasparov/243791258306
- Donate to the Foundation for Democracy in Russia, a non-profit founded by Kasparov to provide legal defense and other aid to the anti-Putin movement in Russia. http://www.theotherrussia.org/support-the-other-russia/
Video of his speech after exiting the courthouse and a translation are below. Updates are being posted at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Garry‐Kasparov/243791258306 and https://twitter.com/Kasparov63.
I have a strange sensation, it’s hard to even find words for it, because my lawyers, friends and I didn’t expect anything besides another typical guilty verdict, and when, over the course of so many years, all opposition activists have been inevitably convicted in courts like this, it’s hard to imagine that the day would come when the courts could provide us with legitimate consideration. Actually, today was very unusual, because from the very beginning, as opposed to many other previous similar cases, the judge agreed to allow motions by the defense. Moreover, all of the defense’s motions were accepted, including those that called witnesses to the stand and those that entered video and photographic material as evidence. Of course, this was a very, let’s say, unusual sign, but we didn’t understand that it would influence the final verdict so much.
I would like to express my particular gratitude to the journalists who managed to collect so many materials, especially photo and video ones, which were used in the case today and which absolutely had an influence both on the judge and, perhaps, on the people who have influence on the judge. All the same, it was just too obvious. I’d like to thank the journalists who came and appeared as witnesses here today, because it was clear that these people, who were completely different and of completely different nationalities, all said the exact same thing. It seems to me that this left an impression, and it also became obvious that, as opposed to many similar situations, there was no actual case of any sort of event occurring. And the extremely confused testimonies of the two police officers who detained me, which contradicted each other, they of course convinced the judge that their version of events held no credibility.
The result was a full acquittal, and this is a very important step forward. I don’t intend to stop here; I want to have charges brought against the officers who illegally detained me. We’ve already filed the necessary paperwork with the investigative branch for the Khamovniki region. And I hope that this verdict will give us additional evidence so that that my detention and beating will be given due consideration by investigators.
As far as the next case is concerned, the one by Officer Ratnikov about this absurd attack – again, I hope that this today’s session will allow us to draw upon video and photo materials. We have very unique materials, basically an entire archive that allows us to give practically a second-by-second account of everything that happened outside of the Khamovnichesky Court. Again, my thanks to the journalists who managed to film all of this, to dig it all up from their electronic devices and even now continue to come forward with different photos and video clips. And I hope that the investigators will act just as objectively as this judge did today, and that I’ll be so lucky as to have Officer Ratnikov be convicted of libel.
It’s hard for me to say what sort of consequences today’s verdict is going to have for the Russian opposition on the whole. I even feel slightly guilty, because until now all of these verdicts have been guilty ones, and so many of my friends are still experiencing this pressure. We know that the widespread investigation of the May 6th events on Bolotnaya Square is still ongoing. But nevertheless, this is a very important step forward, and I’m going to do everything in my power to help those who need defense in these matters, because not everyone is so lucky to have their detentions and the police violence they experienced be covered so fully by the press.
Translation by theotherrussia.org.