RUSSIA: STALINISM FOREVER
Anna Politkovskaya, Washington Post, 4/1/06
MOSCOW -- We are using Stalin's methods again, this time to fight
terrorism. I am writing for this American newspaper on a subject that
one can no longer write about in Russia -- islamskiy terrorizm, or
Islamic terrorism cases. There are hundreds of such cases going
through the courts in our country. Most of them have been fabricated
by the government so that the special services can demonstrate how
"effective" Russia is in fighting terrorism and so that President
Vladimir Putin has something with which to impress the West.
Close examination of these cases shows that many interrogation records
have been tampered with and that the documents containing so-called
honest confessions were obtained through the torture of innocent
suspects who are being punished for the crimes of Chechen separatist
Here is one example of how it's done. Recently two young college
students from the Chechen capital of Grozny -- Musa Lomayev and
Mikhail Vladovskikh -- were accused by the police and the prosecutor's
office of all small, previously unsolved acts of terrorism that had
occurred about six months before in one of Grozny's residential areas.
As a result, Vladovskikh is now severely disabled: Both his legs were
broken under torture; his kneecaps were shattered; his kidneys badly
damaged by beating; his genitalia mutilated; his eyesight lost; his
eardrums torn; and all of his front teeth sawed off. That is how he
appeared before the court.
To get Lomayev to sign -- and he did sign confessions for five acts of
terrorism -- they inserted electrical wires in his anus and applied
current. He would lose consciousness, and they would pour water on
him, show him the wires again, turn him around backward -- and he
would sign confessions that he belonged to a gang with Vladovskikh.
This despite the fact that the two defendants were first introduced to
one another by their prison torturers.
Yet another young man who was pulled into this case is Muslim
Chudalov, a neighbor of the Vladovskikh family before the war. Within
48 hours of being jailed, he produced confessions to 15 crimes, after
which the torturers dragged him as a witness to testify at the
Lomayev-Vladovskikh trial. The left side of his face was burned, his
arms and legs were swollen, and he had bruises and bloodstains all
over his body. He could neither walk nor stand -- security personnel
had to carry him in. Responding to the prosecutor's demand, his tongue
faltering, Chudalov confirmed all of his testimony against Lomayev and
Vladovskikh. And certainly against himself.
Approximately a month later Chudalov was able to send a message from
jail: "I could not endure all those tortures. I am scared even now
when someone simply opens my door. . . . I did not participate
personally in any one of those crimes. The investigators would
themselves state the date of a particular crime, then they would tell
me: 'This is what you participated in,' and beat me up. Then they made
me learn the text of my statement by heart."
This is how we create our "Islamic terrorists" -- but we are no longer
allowed to write openly about it in Russia. It is forbidden for the
press to express sympathy with those sentenced for "terrorism," even
if a judicial mistake is suspected. During the perestroika years we
fought so persistently for the right to appeal and the right for
clemency, knowing how many judicial mistakes are made in the country,
and a special state committee on pardons was established.
Now, under Putin, the committee has been disbanded, executions have
been tacitly restored, and judicial mistakes are again viewed as
permissible and tolerable. The flow of "Islamic terrorism" cases has
engulfed hundreds of innocent people, while Basayev continues to walk
free. And there is no end in sight.
The plight of those sentenced for "Islamic terrorism" today is the
same as that of the political prisoners of the Gulag Archipelago. They
receive long terms -- 18 to 25 years in strict security camps in
Siberian swamps and woods, with virtually all communication with the
outside forbidden. Even the Red Cross is not admitted.
Russia continues to be infected by Stalinism. But it seems to me that
the rest of the world has been infected along with it, a world
shrunken and frightened before the threat of terrorism. I recall the
words of one torture victim at his trial: "What will become of me? How
will I be able to live in this country if you sentence me to such a
long prison term for a crime that I did not commit, and without any
proof of my guilt?"
He never received an answer to his question. Indeed, what will become
of all the rest of us, who tolerate this? What has become of us already?
The writer is a special correspondent for the Moscow-based paper
Novaya Gazeta and the recipient of the 2005 Civil Courage Prize.
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