Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Article 282 of Russian Law is the Paragraph 58 of Today, Suleymanov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 24 – Rais Suleymanov, a specialist on Islam who has often accused regional officials of failing to combat Islamist extremism but who has run afoul of Russian laws against extremism himself, says that Article 282 of the Russian legal code now is little more than an updated version of the notorious Article 58 of Stalin’s times.

            In a comment to the Russkaya narodnya liniya portal, Suleymanov says that efforts by the Russian supreme court to eliminate excessive application of Article 282 are unlikely to be effective at the local and regional level where most such cases are heard and decided (ruskline.ru/news_rl/2018/09/24/282_statya_prevratilas_v_analog_58_stati/).

                “The problem,” he continues, “is that there are always excesses at the local level … where judges are not always independent from the local law enforcement organs and where the authorities want to charge citizen who criticizes them or is otherwise inclined to opposition with Article 282.”

            Suleymanov continues: “Today there is a marked tendency for the growth of anti-power and anti-government attitudes not only in relation to the center but to the regions. Therefore, this method is chosen [to be used against them]. For example, if people are angry by the ecological situation … law enforcement organs charge ecological activists with extremism.”

            “Why are people jailed for reposts?” he asks rhetorically. That is because “in every oblast interior ministry branch works a center to counter extremism, the officers of which find it simpler to solve problems by bringing charges against someone for publishing something in the Internet. This is the simplest way” for such officials to get preferment and promotion.

            Moreover, Suleymanov continues, “the interior ministry has its own experts, and those it invites in to give testimony follow their approach. It has happened already that a judge could on the basis of expertise decide the fate of an accused. If the expert considers there is extremism, then that means the accused must be jailed.”

             At the same time, judges routinely refuse to allow the defense to call their own experts. “The judge trusts only experts from the law enforcement organs, an obvious shortcoming of the judicial system. Now, according to the new rule, judges aren’t supposed” to do that. “But  we shall see how the situation develops in practice.”

            “Unfortunately,” Suleymanov concludes, “experience shows that Paragraph 282 [the anti-extremism law] has been transformed into an analogue of Article 58,” the Stalin-era law under which many Soviet citizens were sent to the GULAG on trumped up charges of spying and anti-Soviet activity.

            The supreme court has issued new rules, he says; but the number of “stupid and absurd cases” is unlikely to decline anytime soon, even if there are more jury trials and judges can’t act simply as they like.

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