Russia: the “Network Case” – torture, forced confessions and repression

In a scandalous miscarriage of justice, a group of young left-wing activists in Russia have been given hefty jail sentences for spurious terror charges, following confessions under torture. The Russian state is trying to intimidate dissenters, but they will not succeed. Solidarity with political prisoners!

On 10 February, in the city of Penza, a group of anti-fascist activists were found guilty and sentenced to between 6 and 18 years in prison. These scandalous proceedings are the culmination of “Network Case” or “Penza Case”, which started two years ago in October 2017. The Federal Security Service (FSB) of Russia accused the group of forming a terrorist organisation, which was planning to carry out an attack and destabilise the situation in Russia.

The first arrested was Egor Zorin, who later issued a “confession”. According to unconfirmed reports, his testimony became the basis for the “Network Case”. Subsequently, the case against him was dropped. In January 2018, Victor Filinkov and Igor Shishkinin were arrested in Leningrad; and in April, Yulia Bojrshinova was arrested. The case of the Leningrad anti-fascists is considered separately.

Confessions forced under torture

According to numerous testimonies (which, of course, the court refused to attach to the case), the detainees’ confessions were forced through torture (electrical shocks and beatings) and threats by the secret police. Few can endure many hours of torture, but despite their sadistic treatment, most of the victims refused to slander their comrades and would not give a guilty plea. They subsequently refuted the confession the accused gave under torture. Only Igor Shishkin (sentenced to 3-and-a-half years in prison in January 2019), Arman Sagunbaev (sentenced to 6 years in prison) and Egor Zorin (who became a witness) were found guilty.

Network Case 3 Image Anarchist WorldwideAccording to numerous testimonies, the detainees’ confessions were forced through torture / Image: Anarchist Worldwide

The anti-fascists informed the media, court and human rights organisations about the torture they faced, but the prosecutor’s office refused to consider these testimonies as part of the case. The following account by one of the accused, Dmitriy Pchelinzev, was reported in Media Zona:

“They took off my socks, and pulled my pants and shorts to my knees in order to attach wires to my genitals. A tight-fitting cap comforter-type piece was put over my head and fastened under my chin. They wrapped wires around my big toes. They tried to put a gag in my mouth, but I did not open it, because the gag was wrapped with tape. Last time, a lot of my teeth got chipped from a gag. Throughout the process, we hardly spoke. When they stopped beating me in the face and stomach, they shocked me.

“The contact was bad, so the shock was weak. I was told after another couple of electric shocks: ‘You will retract your testimony. You will say, I lied about the torture. You will do whatever you are told by the investigator. If they point to white, and they say black – you say black. If they say: cut off your finger and eat it – you will eat it.’ Then they shocked me several times to make sure I remembered.”

Why do the authorities feel the need to falsify events? Don’t they have real crimes to investigate? There are more than enough, but they need real work. In the “Network Case”, the main evidence presented were confessions given under torture. Officers of the Federal Security Service are all looking for another pip to advance their careers: they get their orders from above, and know what their bosses expect from them. It seems the authorities are doing everything possible to intimidate and silence anyone who disagrees with their current policy. Those accused of political crimes have little chance of being let off. The judge in the Penza Regional Court took just 23 minutes to deliver the verdict – giving only the introduction and resolution, but not the motivation, which means he did not discuss the substantive charge.

Solidarity with political prisoners!

Despite solidarity campaigns and a massive public outcry, the ending of the “Network Case” was for the most part predictable. The authorities have settled on the “whip” method. The more clearly the government demonstrates its “power” (and the absence of any principles of justice in its punitive organs), the fewer people will engage in open opposition to its social policy. But the government is making fundamental mistakes. The more repression people face from this capitalist gang, the greater the resistance to this pressure – although so far, we are only seeing the initial ripples.

Many non-politically active people are joining protests as a result of the anger bubbling up from the surface. The “Network Case” is a small victory for the repressive state machinery, and a great tragedy for the accused and their relatives, but it also demonstrates that as long as the masses are isolated from politics, things will only get worse. There are only two roads forward: submitting under the boot of bourgeois state repression, or uniting to fight for a better world.

Certainly, this will not be the last fabricated legal case in Russia. In these difficult times, we must support one another. We must take part in solidarity actions with political prisoners in our cities, disseminate information in social media and continue putting forward social demands. They want dissenters to be intimidated and shut up. In response, we must raise our voices!

No pasaran!

The list of the “Network Case” victims:

Ilia Shakurski: 23 years old – 16 years in prison and 50,000 ruble fine

Vasili Kuksov: 31 years old – 9 years in prison

Dmitriy Pchelinzev: 27 years old – 18 years in prison

Andrei Chernov: 30 years old – 14 years in prison

Michail Kulkov: 25 years old – 10 years in prison

Maxsim Ivankin: 25 years old – 13 years in prison

Arman Sagunbaev: 27 years old – 6 years in prison

Read the original in Russian |

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