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23 Октября 2013 года

Glasnost Defence foundation digest No. 632

21 October 2013

 

STORY OF THE WEEK

Investigation of journalist Igor Domnikov’s killing completed: mastermind identified

Pavel Sopot will stand trial on charges of criminal solicitation in the murder case of Novaya Gazeta (NG) reporter Igor Domnikov, the RF Investigative Committee reported on its website on 16 October.

The journalist was killed in 2000; having received several blows on the head with a hammer late on 12 May, he died in hospital two months later. Not without difficulty, the motive of the crime was established – “revenge for the victim’s criticism of certain government officials,” the Prosecutor-General’s Office wrote in its reply to a GDF inquiry. It was not until 2007 that gangsters detained for some other crimes confessed to Domnikov’s murder and were finally convicted. Specifically, the journalist’s direct killer went to jail for 25 years. But investigators took a very long time – nine years – to identify the mastermind and start criminal proceedings against him.

NG staff suspected the murder was organised by a Lipetsk-based government official and one of his business partners. But investigators thought differently, and the two above-mentioned men posed only as witnesses during the trial over the killer.

In the long run, one of the two suspects was detained in May this year. NG instantly reported: “Businessman Pavel Sopot, who had some business contacts in the Lipetsk Region, was already involved in the proceedings as a suspect at one time.” Yet Novaya believes it is not he who ordered Igor Domnikov’s killing; he was only the middleman between the killer and the suspected organiser, whose identity is well known: Sergey Dorovskoy, a former vice-governor of the Lipetsk Region.

“Hopefully, the investigation into Domnikov’s murder will not be stopped until each of those responsible – whatever official posts they may hold and whoever their patrons may be – are brought to justice,” NG wrote after Sopot’s arrest.

Now the investigation is over and the case against Sopot has been submitted to court. The man is facing charges under Criminal Code Articles 33 and 111 (“Inciting a person to deliberately inflict grave bodily harm on another”). According to the investigators’ version, after Domnikov published a series of critical articles about the regional situation, “businessman Pavel Sopot decided to organise an attack on Domnikov to gain a higher profile in the eyes of the local business community”. He allegedly contacted gangsters who agreed “to have it out” with the journalist. “The gang members secretly followed [Domnikov] from the NG office to his home on 12 May 2000, where they hit him at least 10 times on the head with a hammer, which injuries led to his death in hospital later,” said the RF Investigative Committee’s statement published on 16 October.

So Sopot is to stand trial. What about Dorovskoy?

“Nothing will ever happen to Dorovskoy,” Domnikov wrote in an article describing the government official’s numerous abuses. His prediction came true inasmuch as Dorovskoy was cleared of all charges in the murder case – but was detained for committing another criminal offence. “According to the investigators, in 2008 Dorovskoy, then head of OAO Lipetskkompleks, sold very cheaply and without the shareholders’ consent a scout camp located on a 3.5-hectare land plot in a ship-timber pine forest,” Newsru.com reported. “In March this year, his criminal case went all the way to court.”

Hopefully, the arrested official will be severely punished for this and other crimes he committed. There is only one potential hurdle – a lack of political will on the part of the authorities. Where they demonstrate such will clearly, they can well make law enforcement perform briskly and efficiently. Thirteen years after Igor Domnikov’s murder, isn’t it time to name each one of those who had a hand in that crime?

 

RUSSIA

Reporters attacked while fulfilling editorial assignment in Moscow

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

A LifeNews film crew was attacked in Moscow’s southeast on 20 October.

The journalists arrived at the Sadovod (“Gardener”) market to shoot a video report about a local fire but security guards started to actively prevent them from doing their work – first by slapping the cameraman on the hands, screening the lens with their palms, pushing the videographer and correspondent, and finally tearing them apart by force. Also, they reportedly threatened the journalists with violence.

The market guards explained their vigorous interference with the reporters’ work by citing “management instructions” to that effect – though, according to Grani.ru, the journalists did not even attempt to get through onto the market premises; they were only shooting video sequences across the fence. Security grew notably calmer after a group of reporters for other media arrived, LifeNews correspondent Semyon Pegov said.

Pegov filed a report with the police, asking to take measures to punish the men who had attacked his colleague and him. Police have started an investigation that may give rise either to the start of proceedings under Criminal Code Article 144 (“Interference with a journalist’s lawful professional activities”) – which outcome is unlikely since this article remains largely unworkable – or at least to the advancement of administrative charges against those responsible.

Perm-based MP demands apology for being publicly called ruling party member

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

Aleksandr Fleginsky, a Perm Region Legislative Assembly member representing the United Russia Party (URP), has sent the newspaper Zvezda a message saying that “it would be fair if you apologised to me in the next issue of your newspaper for the inaccuracies” in the 10 October report about a court decision in full legal force requiring Fleginsky to pay 4.3 million roubles into the budget in back taxes. The MP frowned at Zvesda for disclosing his affiliation with the ruling party.

The newspaper was fully justified in making public Fleginsky’s failure to pay the taxes in full. As regards his party affiliation, Zvezda called him a URP member because he ran for an Assembly seat during the 2011 elections as that party’s nominee.

Effective legislation does not provide for anyone to defend one’s civil rights by requiring anyone other to apologise; such a move is neither legally valid nor consistent with the facts reported by Zvezda in the disputed article, the newspaper’s chief editor Sergei Trushnikov wrote back to Fleginsky.

It is indeed odd for an elected official to claim hurt by the public mention of his ruling party membership while actually forgetting about his personal tax debt to the state. Really, it takes a URP member – and Fleginsky is one – to behave like that.

Utility company in Samara sues news website for libel

The Samara-based utility company TK Teplokomfort has lodged a legal claim against the Parkgagarina.info web news agency, demanding a disclaimer of the latter’s report “Investigators in Samara Put Pressure on Lawyer”.

The story was about criminal proceedings started against lawyer Nadezhda Morozova, whose client, Teplokomfort General Director Andrei Lushnikov, was facing charges of neglect of safety rules while operating dangerously explosive heating facilities. During one of his meetings with the lawyer, Lushnikov handed her 150,000 roubles (presumably in pay for her services and for an expert study), after which Morozova was immediately detained by police with pre-marked bank notes in hand. That gave rise to the start of legal proceedings against her and to the subsequent closure of Lushnikov’s criminal case.

Now Teplokomfort has asked the regional arbitration court to declare Parkgagarina’s report “untrue and damaging to the plaintiff’s business reputation”, and claimed 3 million roubles in moral damages from the news agency.

Journalist in Moscow Region convicted of threatening local official with murder

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The city court in Klin, Moscow Region, has sentenced Yelena Polyakova, a former reporter for the newspaper Serp I Molot, to a suspended 18-month term of imprisonment for threatening a local government official in a comment posted on a web chat forum. Polyakova sees this as a persecution campaign launched against her for criticism of the city administration, and the convictive sentence as a result of the victim’s husband holding a post at the prosecutor’s office.

The lady official is A. Sokolskaya, head of the Klin District Education Department and wife of the city’s deputy prosecutor, A. Kozlov. She sued Polyakova on charges of “a politically or ideologically motivated murder threat” under Article 119.2 of the RF Criminal Code after her posting on the regional public movement Soglasiye I Pravda (Concord and Truth)’s website a comment reading as follows:

“Which hand should Sokolskaya be caught by? […] Is she as a municipal official allowed under the law to engage in business (and run) a hairdresser’s shop, a bank, a travel agency, a commercial school and a kindergarten? What about her having been seen partying with prosecutors – is that normal for an education department head? And her decision to shut down several free hobby groups for children without the district leader’s approval? Just think of all those knowledgeable pedagogues who have quit working at schools and kindergartens because of her! By Stalin’s or Chinese laws, she would have been shot in the head long ago!”

Initially, Polyakova posed in the case as a witness, then – as it often happens – as a suspect, and finally, as the accused. After several searches of the Serp I Molot office, the newspaper management refused to extend its work agreement with Polyakova, leaving her jobless. Meanwhile, first the investigators and then her defence lawyer solicited for the criminal proceedings against her to be stopped, but the regional prosecutor's office invariably said no (see digest 606).

Now the trial is over, showing that our law enforcers are well capable of investigating and taking all the way to court cases involving threats against journalists that are posted – for example, by government officials – in the Internet (actually, such cases hardly ever come under investigation at all – maybe because too few journalists have prosecutors among their family members)…

 

UKRAINE

Editor threatened

Alexei Matsuka, chief editor of the web publication Novostidonbassa.net, has said he received a 16 October message that he sees as part of a deliberate campaign aiming to intimidate his colleagues and him. An unknown man, who signed the message as vershitel-sudeb@bk.ru (“Master of Destinies”), wrote that Matsuka’s “turn has come to depart … for the kingdom of light and welfare”. The author urged the journalist to recall “everything you’ve done in this life” and everyone “whom you’ve treated well and whom you’ve insulted”.

The journalist immediately reported the threats to, and was questioned by, the police.

“First, I thought they’d sent me the message using my own IP,” he said. “But police said the sender’s IP was on Mail.ru. A check-up is being carried out now to establish who sent the message and when.”

It may be noted that three unidentified men on 24 September attempted to break into the Novosti Donbassa office, and on 16 September Matsuka reported that he and his colleague Vitaly Sizov had been followed since late August, when they started independent probes into alleged corrupt practices in the power echelons.

[AiF Ukraina report, 17 October]

 

NEWS FROM PARTNERS

2013 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” draws to a close

The 2013 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” is drawing to a close. Participants are requested to submit their works before November 1.

The Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as an Act of Conscience” is conferred on journalists for publications reflecting the authors’ active life stands consistently translated into their highly professional work, and for defending the values Dr. Andrei D. Sakharov used to defend during his lifetime.

The materials submitted for the competition should have been published between October 15, 2012 and October 15, 2013 in Russian print and online media. Candidates for the award may be nominated by editorial boards and individual Russian citizens.

All materials must be submitted in print or electronic format (on diskettes or CDs, or as e-mail messages sent to fond@gdf.ru or boris@gdf.ru). Print versions shall be mailed to: Glasnost Defence Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard, Office 438, 119992, Moscow, Russia, with a note: “Andrei Sakharov Competition ‘Journalism as an Act of Conscience’.”

 

This digest was prepared by the Glasnost Defence Foundation in Moscow. The digest has been issued once a week, on Mondays, since August 11, 2000.

We acknowledge the assistance of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

Currently it is distributed by e-mail to 1,600 subscribers in and outside Russia.

Editorial board

  • Editor-in-chief, Alexei Simonov
  • Boris Timoshenko, Head of Monitring Service;
  • Svetlana Zemskova, GDF Lawyer;
  • Vsevolod Shelkhovskoy, translator.

We welcome the promotion of our news items and articles but if you make use of any information from this digest or other GDF materials please acknowledge the source.

Contacts:

Glasnost Defence Foundation, Room 438, 4 Zubovsky Boulevard,
119992 Moscow, Russia.

Telephone/fax: +7 (495) 637-4947 and +7 (495) 637-4420
e-mail: boris@gdf.ru , or fond@gdf.ru

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Архив
ФЗГ продолжает бороться за свое честное имя. Пройдя все необходимые инстанции отечественного правосудия, Фонд обратился в Европейский суд. Для обращения понадобилось вкратце оценить все, что Фонд сделал за 25 лет своего существования. Вот что у нас получилось:
Полезная деятельность Фонда защиты гласности за 25 лет его жизни