- Russia continues to torture their own people during interrogations.
- A case has been fabricated and in direct contact with Putin.
- Concern has been raised by Amnesty International.
The recent history of the defendants in the “Network” case has been continued. A petition has been started on scientific.ru and shared on Facebook pertaining to the case of convictions and confessions obtained via torture in Russia. The allegations also include drugging the seven individuals while in custody to fabricate a case and the judge completely disregarding such evidence presented. The petition was started by Boris E. Stern, who is a leading researcher at the Institute of the Nuclear Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
The statement outlines that the “Network” case in its entirety was based on acts of terror. “Drugs, deception and torture: how a handful of people were tied up in a banned terrorist.” Furthermore, Russian scientists and scientific journalists criticized the court’s decision in the case of the terrorist organization “Network” and demanded that the harsh sentence be immediately lifted.
The social media outcry happened after the Privolzhsky District Military Court of the city of Penza, Russia sentenced seven defendants in the case of “network” (banned in Russia) to terms of six to 18 years in prison. They were found guilty of Article 205.4 part 1 and 2 of Russia’s criminal code.
Article 205.4, part 1, of the Russian Criminal Code (“organization of a terrorist association”) Article 205.4, part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code (“participation in a terrorist association”)
The biggest sentences were given to Dmitry Pchelintsev, whom the prosecution considers the Creator of the “Network” (18 years in a strict regime colony), Ilya Shakursky (16 years), Andrey Chernov (14 years) and Maxim Ivankin (13 years). The court also decided to destroy “the means of committing a crime that are not of value.” According to Mediazona, these include the books: Karl Marx’s Capital, a textbook on shooting, a GRU special forces textbook, and a number of anarchist publications.
The case started via abduction of one of the group members by the FSB who later surfaced in a detention facility in 2018, where he was allegedly tortured to get a confession. Amnesty International voiced its concern in 2018.
The defendants completely denied their guilt, and several of them previously stated that they gave confessions under torture. The court supported the version of the state prosecution, according to which the “Network” was an interregional terrorist organization with cells in Penza, Moscow and St. Petersburg. According to the investigation, the participants of the “Network” developed its charter, conducted training with weapons, planned attacks on law enforcement officers and state institutions for the violent overthrow of the state system.
Overall, the case started in the fall of 2017, during the surrender of a student of the Penza Pedagogical Institute Yegor Zorin, who, as reported by Kommersant, had been detained with drugs.
Kommersant is a nationally distributed daily newspaper published in Russia, mostly devoted to politics and business. It is a leading liberal business broadsheet.
It was Zorin who testified about the creation of a terrorist community. In total, 11 people were arrested in the case– three in St. Petersburg and eight in Penza– all accused of participating in a terrorist community and preparing for unrest. The case against Zorin was closed in 2018, and Igor Shishkin, who pleaded guilty and testified against other defendants, received 3.5 years in prison in January 2019. Now in St. Petersburg, a criminal case is being considered against two other defendants.
The SOVA Center director is severely concerned about what occurred and the length of sentences given. The SOVA Center for Information and Analysis is a Moscow-based nongovernmental organization and think tank conducting sociological research primarily on nationalism and racism in post-Soviet Russia.
The fact that everyone was tortured in a row indicates that there is no real evidence of guilt of the participants of the “Network.” Many organizations in Russia believe the case to be fabricated by the Kremlin, since Vladimir Putin specifically stated that he is the one curating the case to make sure it is compliant with Russian law.
Nevertheless, the outcome is dire. Russia continuously disregards human rights. In this case, the parties did not truly meet the definition of terrorism, nor did the case present clear cut evidence for such convictions.