Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Russia

Jailed Russian Opposition Protester Barred From Mother's Funeral

Mikhail Kosenko is being held in pretrial detention for allegedly instigating "mass disorder" and assaulting police officials.
Mikhail Kosenko is being held in pretrial detention for allegedly instigating "mass disorder" and assaulting police officials.
By Claire Bigg
A mentally ill Russian man held in pretrial detention for more than a year after attending an opposition rally has been barred from attending his mother's funeral.

Mikhail Kosenko and 26 others are being tried for allegedly instigating "mass disorders" and assaulting police officials during an antigovernment protest in May 2012 that turned violent.

Some of them face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

A Moscow court on September 9 rejected Kosenko's request to be present at his mother's funeral, deepening outrage over the so-called Bolotnaya case -- named after the Moscow square where the defendants were detained.

In Russia, those in pretrial detention do not have the right to temporary release in order to attend funerals.

Kosenko had nonetheless filed an appeal and hoped until the last minute that he would be granted permission to pay his last respects to his mother, who was buried on September 10.

His lawyer, Valery Shukhardin, insists that Russian legislation violates international norms by preventing detainees from bidding their final farewell to deceased relatives.

"Only people who have been convicted and are serving their sentence have this right," he says. "Our laws allow criminals to do so but not innocent people in pretrial detention. In this regard, our legislation violates the defendant's right to a private life -- a right enshrined in Article 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms."

Psychiatric Disorder

The high-profile case has sparked international outrage and has come to symbolize the Kremlin's ruthless crackdown on political dissent since Vladimir Putin's return to the Kremlin last year for a third presidential term after a four-year stint as prime minister.

About 400 people were detained at the May 6, 2012 protest on Bolotnaya Square, where people had turned up en masse to denounce Putin's 12-year rule.

Kosenko's plight has drawn particular sympathy.

The 38-year-old, who suffers from a psychiatric disorder after a trauma sustained during his military service, is currently being held in the psychiatric section of a pretrial detention center.

Prosecutors have sought to have him forcibly interned in a psychiatric hospital despite the fact that he successfully underwent outpatient treatment for a decade before his arrest.

According to Shukhardin, Kosenko is not receiving proper medical treatment in detention.

Life behind bars, he says, has taken a serious toll on his health.

"As a person with a disability, his level of suffering is much higher than that of ordinary, healthy inmates," he says. "His detention is not at all helping his health."

Kosenko strongly denies assaulting police officers at the rally – a claim backed by a police officer hurt in the clashes who told the court that he did not recognize the detainee.

Footage allegedly incriminating Kosenko shows a group of people clashing with police while he stands by.

WATCH: Protesters and police clash in Moscow on May 6, 2012


Several months before passing away from an undisclosed illness, Kosenko's mother Nina had recorded a video making an emotional plea for his release.

"I could not think about him without tears, tears kept streaming and streaming," she said. "Still now, emotions overwhelm me. I am worried about him. I just want him to come home."

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