April 17, 2023

Kara-Murza Sentenced to 25 Years


Kara-Murza Sentenced to 25 Years
Vladimir Kara-Murza makes the sign of the cross at the memorial on the site of Boris Nemtsov's assassination, 2021. Michał Siergiejevicz.

The Moscow City Court has sentenced politician Vladimir Kara-Murza to 25 years in prison for telling the truth.

Man looking just off camera.
Vladimir Kara-Murza in 2017 /
Jindřich Nosek

Kara-Murza was tried on three articles of the Russian Criminal Code - for spreading "fakes" about the Russian army, for conducting activities of an "undesirable" organization (due to his cooperation with the "Open Russia" fund) and for "treason."

The prosecution requested that Kara-Murza get 25 years in prison and the court, unsurprisingly, this being Russia, complied.

Vladimir Kara-Murza refused to plead guilty. His lawyers said that, over the year he has spent under pre-trial detention, Kara-Murza's health has seriously deteriorated. He lost 22 kilograms in the pre-trial detention center. His lawyer, Vadim Prokhorov, said Kara-Murza was diagnosed with polyneuropathy of the lower extremities - a diagnosis that is among the list of diseases that prevent serving a sentence in Russia. Prokhorov speculated that the disease was likely the result of the poisonings of Kara-Murza in 2015 and 2017.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Kara-Murza is a dissident, activist, journalist, author, and filmmaker. A protégé of Boris Nemtsov, he has been vice-chairman of Open Russia, an NGO that promotes civil society and democracy in Russia. He has directed two documentaries, They Chose Freedom and Nemtsov. he was arrested in April 2022 on charges of disobeying police orders; his arrest was later extended after new charges of "discrediting" the military were introduced, and in October 2022, the charge of treason was added. In October 2022, Kara-Murza was awarded the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize.

On April 10, Kara-Murza delivered his "last word." These are translated and printed below.


Citizen judges! I was certain that after two decades in Russian politics, after all that I have seen and experienced, nothing could surprise me anymore. I must admit that I was wrong. Nevertheless, I was surprised that, in terms of secrecy and discrimination by the defense, my 2023 has far outstripped the “trials” of Soviet dissidents in the 1960s and 70s. Not to mention the requested jail term and words used to describe the "enemy." This is not even the 1970s - this is the 1930s. For me, as a historian, this is an occasion for reflection.

During the defendant's testimony, the presiding judge reminded me that one of the extenuating circumstances was "remorse for what he had done." And although there is little of joy surrounding me now, I could not help smiling. The criminals must repent of their deeds. I'm in jail for my political views. For speaking out against the war in Ukraine. For many years of struggle against Putin's dictatorship. For facilitating the adoption of personal international sanctions under the Magnitsky Act against human rights violators. Not only do I not repent of any of this, I am proud of it. I am proud that Boris Nemtsov brought me into politics. And I hope that he is not ashamed of me. I support every word that I have spoken and that is attributed to me in this accusation. And I only blame myself for one thing: that over the years of my political activity I have not been able to convince enough of my compatriots and enough politicians from democratic countries of the danger that the current regime in the Kremlin poses for Russia and for the world. Today this is obvious to everyone, but at a terrible price - the price of war.

In the last word, defendants usually ask for an acquittal. For a person who did not commit crimes, the only legal sentence would be acquittal. But I don't ask this court for anything. I know my verdict. I knew it a year ago when I saw in my mirror people in black uniforms and black masks chasing after my car. Such is now the cost in Russia for speaking up.

But I also know that the day will come when the darkness hanging over our country will dissipate. When black is called black and white is called white; when at the official level it will be recognized that two times two is still four; when a war will be called a war, and a usurper a usurper; and when those who kindled and unleashed this war, and not those who tried to stop it, are recognized as criminals. This day will come as inevitably as spring comes to replace even the frostiest winter. And then our society will open its eyes and be horrified by the terrible crimes that were committed on its behalf. From this realization, from this reflection, the long, difficult, but so important for all of us path of recovery and restoration of Russia, its return to the community of civilized countries, will begin.

Even today, even in the darkness surrounding us, even sitting in this cage, I love my country and believe in our people. I believe that we can walk this path.

 

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