It seems pretty unlikely we'll ever know the truth about what is going on with the open-again, closed-again, open-again trial of three men allegedly involved in the murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Russian speakers can follow the coverage by RFE/RL's Russian Service here. "Novaya gazeta" has a chronology here.
Lawyer Robert Amsterdam suggests the confusion might be the result of a "power vacuum" or conflicting agendas within Russia's ruling elite.
Nonetheless, I think as many people as possible should know the name of former juror Yevgeny Kolesov and the story of what he did. In a nutshell, Kolesov was listening to radio Ekho Moskvy one evening (how did someone who listens to the liberal Ekho Moskvy get on the jury in the first place!?!) when he heard a report that the judge in the Politkovskaya case had ordered the trial closed to the press ostensibly at the request of jurors, who were supposedly afraid for their lives. Kolesov contacted the radio station and was soon on the air, telling the country that the jury had made no such request. In fact, 19 of the 20 jurors had refused to sign a written statement requesting a closed trial that had apparently been drafted for them by court officials.
Yesterday, Kolesov was removed from the jury because of his contacts with the media.
Although Kolesov did a heroic thing -- standing up to the authorities in Russia is not exactly the fashion these days -- he doesn't want to be considered a hero and is shunning further publicity. Through a bit of imaginative investigative journalism, "Novaya gazeta" contacted him for an interview and got this statement: "Excuse me for interrupting you, but my decision is final. I absolutely do not want any publicity. My relatives have reacted in various ways to my appearance. You have to understand -- I have a daughter and she has a child. I simply do not have the right to cause my relatives anxiety. I did what I did. I don't regret it one bit. If the same thing happened to me again, I would act the same, if nothing inside of me had changed. And I hope nothing will change. But you shouldn't make a hero out of me. And all the other jurors did the same thing. Why don't you talk about them? I just happened to hear Ekho Moskvy at the moment when they were reporting about us, and I had to call, to write [an SMS]."
"Novaya gazeta" also interviewed Ekho Moskvy Deputy Editor in Chief Vladimir Varfolomeyev, who handled Kolesov's on-air appearance. "When I saw the SMS," Varfolomeyev says, "I thought that this person has a conscience. And I began to wonder who he was. At first I figured he was a good, educated intellectual -- a teacher or a doctor. But do they take such people on juries? And when I found out that this was an ordinary worker, an ordinary guy, a roofer, I was amazed. We have grown accustomed to thinking that such people don't need anything, aren't interested in anything. And when you meet such a gem -- in terms of the brilliance of his inner light and in terms of his strength -- you are really surprised. I expected almost anything, but not this. This is a person with a stunning sense of his own dignity, who from the first day understood that he and his 19 colleagues are being used. And who decided on his own that he wouldn't participate, that he viewed justice and his small role in this big machine differently. I was amazed. And very glad that such a person appeared."
And one more voice. Lawyer and journalist Leonid Nikitinsky writes in the same paper: "A surprising phenomenon happens in jury rooms: ordinary Russian people suddenly begin to act in a way that is unusual in Russia -- that is, like citizens."
The sad thing is that in Russia the relatives of people who act like citizens have good reason to be afraid. International fame did not save Anna Politkovskaya from being killed. But maybe if enough people know the name of Yevgeny Kolesov, the chances of something bad happening to him will be reduced.
-- Robert Coalson