Just when I thought that Russian chutzpah could never surprise me, something like this comes along:
A federal court handed Bout 25 years in prison on Thursday for conspiring to sell weapons to Columbian guerrillas who were actually US federal agents in disguise.
. . . .
The ministry claimed the US had used “unbearable conditions” in detention as a means of physically and psychologically pressuring Bout during his trial. “Long before the verdict, the authorities declared V.A. Bout a ‘merchant of death’ and little short of an international terrorist, while the prosecution was built entirely on his imputed ‘criminal intent’,” it said, adding: “The Russian foreign ministry will take all necessary efforts to return V.A. Bout to the Motherland.”
This from the country that uses psychological pressure and physical torture and literally-literally-unbearable conditions to coerce those they want to break.
Three prominent examples: I could spend days assembling many more.
Example 1. Today is the 6th anniversary of the arrest of Vasily Aleksanyan. Aleksanyan worked for Khodorkovsky and Yukos. The Russians wanted to compel him to testify against Khodorkovsky. How? Here’s how:
During Aleksanyan’s imprisonment, his health rapidly deteriorated due to HIV-related illnesses. He became almost blind and developed cancer of the liver with metastasis into the lymph nodes. He also became ill with tuberculosis.
Despite the grave medical situation demanding urgent antiretroviral treatment and chemotherapy in a hospital, he was denied both. The prosecutors also ignored three injunctions by the European Court of Human Rights on 27 November 2007, on 6 December 2007 and on 20 December 2007.According to Aleksanyan, the prosecutors are demanding false evidence against other Yukos executives from him before starting his medical treatment. On 26 December Aleksanyan made public a statement asking for help from human rights advocates.
Example 2. Sergei Magnitsky:
Magnitsky was arrested and imprisoned at the Butyrka prison in Moscow in November 2008 after being accused of colluding with Hermitage. Held for 11 months without trial, he was, as reported by The Telegraph, “denied visits from his family” and “forced into increasingly squalid cells.” He developed gall stones, pancreatitis and calculous cholecystitis, for which he was given inadequate medical treatment during his incarceration. Surgery was ordered in June, but never performed; detention center chief Ivan P. Prokopenko later indicated that he “…did not consider Magnitsky sick…Prisoners often try to pass themselves off as sick, in order to get better conditions.”
On November 16, eight days before he would have had to have been released if he were not brought to trial, Magnitsky died for reasons attributed first by prison officials as a “rupture to the abdominal membrane” and later to heart attack. It later emerged that Magnitsky had complained of worsening stomach pain for five days prior to his death and that by the 15th was vomiting every three hours, with a visibly swollen stomach. On the day of his death, the prison physician, believing he had a chronic disease, sent him by ambulance to a medical unit equipped to help him, but the surgeon there — who described Magnitsky as “agitated, trying to hide behind a bag and saying people were trying to kill him” — prescribed only a painkiller, leaving him for psychiatric evaluation. He was found dead in his cell a little over two hours later.
Journalist Owen Matthews described his suffering in Moscow’s notorious prison, Butyrka.
According to [Magnitsky’s] heartbreaking prison diary, investigators repeatedly tried to persuade him to give testimony against Hermitage and drop the accusations against the police and tax authorities. When Magnitsky refused, he was moved to more and more horrible sections of the prison, and ultimately denied the medical treatment which could have saved his life.
And of course, Russia continues to torture Magnitsky-or his mother, to be more accurate-by insisting that he be tried-yes, tried-posthumously.
Example 3. Svetlana Bakhmina:
The drama surrounding Svetlana Bakhmina, a former Yukos lawyer who gave birth to her third child while still in prison, has come to a head after a Moscow court granted her parole.
Her release on Tuesday has raised hopes of the change in the judicial climate that President Dmitry Medvedev has been advocating. It could also affect the second trial against her former boss, ex-Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
While the court’s decision to free Bakhmina may indicate a softer line in the Khodorkovsky trial, it could indicate that she could be called to give testimony against him.
Lawyers have suggested Bakhmina was somehow a hostage in the Yukos affair, while the drawn-out hearings into her parole last year illustrated indecisiveness on the part of the authorities. Regional courts in Mordovia, where Bakhmina was serving her 6 1/2-year term for embezzlement, twice refused to parole her.
In late October, just a month before giving birth to a daughter, Bakhmina requested a pardon from the Kremlin, a move that sparked widely-publicised campaigns involving public figures petitioning Medvedev to release her. But it was later reported that Bakhmina had withdrawn her request just five days after filing it.
Bakhmina’s lawyer Roman Golovkin said that he did not know Bakhmina’s motives for withdrawing the petition because her defence was barred from seeing her at that time. But others believe the hasty withdrawal was evidence that Bakhmina had come under pressure from investigators.
“The fact that, under these conditions, she was forced to withdraw her request for a pardon – this is a significant moment in this whole story,” said Lev Ponomaryov, a human rights activist who has been watching the highly-politicised Yukos affair. “She was pressured.
So yes, by these standards the treatment of Bout is cruel, unusual, and inhumane.
And by these standards I mean the typical Russian, whatabout, chutzpah double standard.
Note too that the alleged pressure placed on Bout was absolutely immaterial to his trial. He was not broken and compelled to testify against himself: indeed, any attempt to do so would have been pointless, facially illegal, and a perfect way to get Bout on a plane back to Russia a free man. Which is exactly why the DOJ would never do it. All of the statements made about Bout in court were SOP in this kind of trial. And he had attorneys that were capable of rebutting these points, and cross-examining any witnesses that made them. (Although apparently Bout erred terribly in his choice of counsel. But that’s his mistake.) Any inflammatory statements made by witnesses (rather than attorneys in opening and closing arguments) were subject to being struck from the record, and jeopardizing the prosecution-another reason for the DOJ to avoid this.
So the appropriate response to this Russian tantrum, and any efforts to return Bout to Russia should be: (a) “F*** you.” (b) Passing the Magnitsky act. And then watch them really go non-linear.