“The investigator cannot even prove that a crime has been committed”

August 14, 2015

PivovarovKostroma Regional Court has dismissed an appeal by Andrei Pivovarov, chief of the PARNAS regional election headquarters, against his arrest. He will remain in custody until September 28. Pivovarov, recognised as a political prisoner by the human rights group Memorial, made a speech in court on August 12. The complete text of the speech follows:

Ladies and gentlemen of the court,

You are currently considering an appeal, made by myself and my defence counsel, against the court’s decision to remand me in custody.

I fully corroborate the facts set out in the appeal, and fully endorse all the arguments made by my lawyers. And I would also like to draw your attention to certain other issues that seem important to me. I have been charged under Articles 272 and 286 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. I have never previously violated the Criminal Code or criminal law: this is the first time that charges have been brought against me. I therefore want to figure out whether there is any real foundation to the accusations being levelled against me, and whether the court had grounds to place me under arrest; for if it did not, everything that’s currently happening to me is unlawful.

I am accused of seeking unauthorised access to computer data, which subsequently resulted in the destruction, copying, blocking and modification of that data. I was indeed detained at the police station, in a room where it is possible to access the passport data of Kostroma Region residents. I was, however, accompanied by a police officer at the time. To accuse me of unauthorised access – let alone any kind of modification, tampering, or damage to property – therefore seems, at the very least, perplexing and unjustified.

Ladies and gentlemen of the court, I am not a hacker. By education, I am an economist. I’ve been involved in social activism throughout my life. Even if I’d really wanted to, it’s unlikely that I’d have been able to delete, block, or somehow modify any kind of computer programme, let alone a specialised one. If I understand correctly, to be charged under this article, one necessarily has to have caused material damage, effected destruction, or committed other suchlike acts. At no stage of the proceedings – whether during the filing of charges or in court – could investigators explain what I had done, what had been broken as a result of my actions, or what material damage I had caused. Not once was anything substantiated, and nor was I presented with a set of facts that might have served as the basis for such conclusions.

Furthermore, at the arraignment, the investigator told me directly that, in the long run, the charges under Article 272 would most likely be dropped. It’s legitimate to ask, then, precisely on what grounds I was kept under arrest over the course of two months, and on what grounds I’ve been remanded in custody for two weeks, if it is assumed that charges under the Article in question will ultimately be dropped? The upshot is that the accusations levelled against me are groundless.

Subsequently, I was charged under Article 286, which I find yet more incomprehensible: I had no personal discussions of any kind with police officer Alexei Nikonorov, asked nothing of him, and in no way threatened him. Significantly, the record of the face-to-face interrogation has not been provided. I was indeed detained at the police department. But I had no information about Nikonorov’s powers of office and, up to the very moment of my detention, did not even know his rank and surname. The claim that I was somehow corrupting him is therefore perplexing at the very least.

The detention record indicated that I was arrested at the scene of the crime. However, the investigator cannot even prove that a crime has been committed. The case files offer no evidence. The notice of charges indicates that sufficient evidence has been amassed to prosecute me as a suspect in the case. As demonstrated by the text of the notice, however, no such evidence exists. The accusations against me are groundless.

I ask the court to take into account that I was arrested on the 27th at 23:40. Since that time, I was constantly surrounded by police, and only by police. I made clear from the outset that I required a lawyer. Yet a lawyer was provided only on the morning of the 28th. Police officer Nikonorov was in the same situation. There’s evidence of this in the record of the face-to-face interrogation, which, unfortunately, has not been provided.

I do not belong to any radical movements. I am a member of the Parnas party, which has been registered by the Ministry of Justice; we have representation in the legislature and executive. Our party is absolutely legal. My assessment by the district police officer is therefore incomprehensible. No one had any pre-emptive discussions with me, I have committed no irregularities, and the officer’s statement regarding several confrontations is a lie. Following this trial I will lodge a complaint with the St Petersburg police.

I’ve been involved in social activism for over a decade. Now, in cities all across Russia, hundreds of people are protesting to show me their support. People are collecting signatures, writing letters. It is imperative for me that they believe in my innocence. I cannot deceive them; it would be unacceptable for me to attempt to abscond or influence the course of the trial, because for me the support of these people is far more important. I will do everything in my power to prove my innocence.

There’s another important point to be made, ladies and gentlemen. This spring, Mr Volodin, one of our country’s highest-ranking domestic-policy officials, said that this year’s elections should be conducted fairly and openly. I’m a member of the federal leadership of Parnas. Prior to my detention, I was chief of the party’s Kostroma HQ. Can these elections inspire any confidence while an active electoral participant, the campaign head of the only opposition party in Kostroma, remains in custody on trumped-up charges? Will there be any confidence in the governor, and will the elections be legitimate?

My being in custody is not the only matter we’re dealing with now; we’re also dealing with the matter of the public’s confidence in the elections, and in the words we hear spoken on television. Ladies and gentlemen of the court, I am a normal, sociable person. I have a house, I have a job, I have a family, in my mother. I have a rented apartment in Kostroma. I have no previous convictions or criminal record. People invariably speak well of me at my workplace. I have no intention of absconding. My goal is to prove my innocence through legal channels.

I still insist that my external passport be added to my case file, thereby confirming my desire to remain here. But for some reason or other the investigator does not want to do so. At the same time, my personal effects, confiscated in large quantities in Petersburg and Kostroma, are currently under his care, as are my monetary assets.

Prominent people have stood bail for me. I do not want to let these people down, so I will not abscond.

I appeal to you to change your decision concerning my arrest and impose any alternative preventive punishment that does not involve arrest. I pledge to justify your trust.

Andrei Pivovarov