Staunton, July 13 – The Kabardino-Balkar Supreme Court left in place the sentence that a lower court handed down in the case of Circassian activist Martin Kochesokov for supposed possession of marijuana, a charge his lawyers, most Circassians and the Memorial human rights organization says is completely without foundation.
Kochesokov, who has long been an activist in the Circassian national movement, was arrested on the same day as Moscow journalist Ivan Golunov who was subsequently released following massive protests in the Russian capital That won Kochesokov the sobriquet of the Circassian Golunov and sparked hopes he might have the same luck (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/07/kochesokov-golunov-of-north-caucasus.html).
It is true that he did not get the ten years behind bars that prosecutors had sought: He was given only a three year suspended sentence. But because he insists on his innocence and because prosecutorial witnesses were not able to provide any real evidence of his crime, he and his lawyers appealed.
(On the course of this case, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/08/circassian-leaders-call-for-charges.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/08/circassians-at-home-and-abroad-call-on.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/10/russian-government-case-against.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/12/defense-witnesses-again-show-falsity-of.html.)
But now the appeals court has left Kochesokov’s sentence in place, confirming in the words of his attorneys and Memorial that in the North Caucasus, the authorities feel far freer to bring any charges they like and impose any sentences they want regardless of the evidence than they do in Moscow (memohrc.org/ru/news_old/sud-v-kbr-ostavil-v-sile-prigovor-martinu-kocheskovu and zapravakbr.ru/index.php/30-uncategorised/1693-sud-v-kbr-ostavil-v-sile-prigovor-martinu-kocheskovu).
Kochesokov will now appeal first to Moscow and then to Strasbourg, and while he may not win in the courtrooms at least within Russia, Moscow will find that it is the loser, not only in terms of the credibility of the Russian judicial system but also because of the growing anger of official mistreatment of activists like him.