In 1999, bombs exploded in apartment buildings in Moscow, killing more than 100 people. The Russian authorities promptly accused Chechen separatists of carrying out the attacks, and then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sent Russian troops into Chechnya, sparking the Second Chechen War. These actions, taken in the name of counterterrorism, enhanced Putin's popularity and contributed to his win in the presidential election in 2000.And he's in trouble:
Mikhail Trepashkin, a defense attorney, became a consultant to a special public commission set up by prominent human rights activist and former Duma Deputy Sergei Kovalev to investigate the circumstances of the 1999 bombings. Mr. Trepashkin had worked for the Federal Security Service (FSB) and brought his insider knowledge of the agency to the investigation.
During the investigation, Mr. Trepashkin revealed evidence of FSB involvement in the Moscow bombings. This included an interview with the landlord of the apartment building, who said he had been coerced into identifying a Chechen as the culprit. Also, two weeks after the bombings that shook Moscow, local police found another bomb in an apartment building in the city of Ryazan. Suspects were apprehended and later released when they turned out to be FSB agents.
The investigation came to an abrupt end when the co-chairman of the Commission, Sergei Yushenkov, was murdered in front of his home. One Commission member died of food poisoning, another was brutally beaten, and two other members were removed from their seats in the legislature.
Mr. Trepashkin was hired by Tatiana and Alyona Morozova, the Russian-American daughters of a woman who was killed in the 1999 blast, to represent their interests during the prosecution of the Chechen rebels accused of transporting the explosives. The first day of the trial was scheduled for October 24, 2003. Just four days before he was set to appear in court to represent the interests of his clients, Trepashkin was stopped on a roadway outside Moscow by the police. The police searched Trepashkin's car and declared they had found a pistol in his trunk. Trepashkin denies having a gun in his car and claims that the police fabricated the charges.
On October 22, 2003, Trepashkin was jailed.
In recent months a number of complaints about his conduct in prison have been filed with the authorities. These complaints appear to have been fabricated by the authorities or to be based on complaints from other prisoners that were apparently coerced by threatening them with the withdrawal of privileges, such as depriving them of family visits if they refused to submit a complaint against him. It is worth recalling that Trepahskin was granted parole on the basis of his good conduct in prison in August 2005.Why, yes it does. So let's make sure this receives as much publicity as possible.
On March 9, 2007, a district court in Nizhny Tagil ruled that Trepashkin should be transferred from the penal settlement, to a nearby prison colony of general regime, where the conditions of confinement are harsher than in the settlement. At this hearing the judge refused to accept a request from the Ombudsman of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Lukin, that Trepashkin be transferred to a prison hospital to receive treatment for his severe asthma. The bar association of the city of Moscow, of which Trepashkin was a member, submitted an appeal questioning the legal basis of Trepashkin's continued imprisonment, which the judge also declined to consider.
The troubling background to Trepashkin's prosecution and continued imprisonment suggests that he is being singled out for punishment for his activities as a lawyer representing his clients, who, in the course of those duties, exposed evidence that casts doubt on official explanations for a series of bombings that took place in Moscow in 1999.
Let's make repression counterproductive.