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Monday, November 26, 2007

Kasparov, in Prison

So much for the idea that the mighty Kremlin does not fear opposition leader Garry Kasparov and that his work in Russia is marginal and meaningless, and that he is a self-serving gadfly. Let the critics who say that experience the following before the open their propagandizing mouths.

The Washington Post reports that as members of Kasparov's group tried to deliver their speeches at a protest rally over the weekend, "
pro-Kremlin agitators boomed cackling laughter from loudspeakers behind police, who made no move to stop them. Russian political satirist Viktor Shenderovich noted in an interview at Saturday's rally that a similar stunt by the opposition would not last a minute if directed against President Vladimir Putin or a United Russia rally." Kasparov was then arrested, and preemptive arrests were carried out in St. Petersburg for a demonstration that was to follow there the next day, including SPS party leader Boris Nemtsov.

Attorney Robert Amsterdam says Kasparov's instantaneous show trial clearly violated international law and posts interviews with
Kasparov's attorney and a witness to the arrest and trial.

This is the kind of ape-like hypocrisy that only neo-Soviet Russia can generate. It's EXACTLY what the Russophile wackos have been complaining about happening in Georgia, but apparently it's just fine for Russia to do it.

The Associated Press reports (the BBC has video, as does Robert Amsterdam):

Riot police beat and detained opposition leader Garry Kasparov Saturday as they took dozens of protesters into custody at a rally against President Vladimir Putin, his assistant said. He was later taken to a city court, where he was charged with organizing an unsanctioned protest and resisting arrest. [He was subsequently convicted] of leading an opposition protest and sentenced to five days in jail by a Moscow court Saturday. Kasparov and dozens of other demonstrators were detained hours earlier after riot police clashed with Kremlin opponents following a protest rally that drew several thousand people. The former chess champion was forced to the ground and beaten, his assistant Marina Litvinovich said in a telephone interview from outside the police station where Kasparov was held. "What you've heard is all lies," Kasparov said after the sentence was read. "The testimony is contradictory. There was not a single word of truth."

Two riot police testified in court that they had been given direct orders before the rally to arrest Kasparov, one of President Vladimir Putin's harshest critics. One of the policemen acknowledged that the two reports he had filed were contradictory. Kasparov was charged with organizing an unsanctioned procession "of at least 1,500 people directed against President Vladimir Putin," of chanting anti-government slogans and of resisting arrest.

"What we see today is the implementation of Putin's plan," Kasparov told journalists in the courtroom. "Putin's plan" is what the dominant pro-Kremlin party is calling its platform in the current parliamentary campaign. Police also detained Eduard Limonov, leader of the National Bolshevik Party, who has been Kasparov's closest partner in a broad opposition coalition. Kasparov, one of Putin's harshest critics, and other opposition politicians have come under growing pressure before Dec. 2 parliamentary elections.

Determined to see Putin's party win an overwhelming victory in the elections, the Kremlin has shown little tolerance for any parties or politicians that challenge its rule. "We should overcome the fear that the regime uses to sustain itself," Kasparov told the crowd. "For the Putin regime, our country is just a source of enrichment." Kasparov's coalition, which has welcomed nationalist leftists as well as democrats and Soviet-era dissidents, has little public support. Its ranks have expanded in recent weeks, though, as more mainstream politicians have been squeezed out of the political process.

Riot police surrounded the rally on Academician Sakharov Prospect, a street not far from the center of Moscow. They moved in after the rally had ended and about 150 of the protesters, mainly Limonov's young activists, began to march toward the Central Elections Commission. Police pushed protesters into three police buses. Before he was himself surrounded by police, Kasparov estimated that dozens had been detained. Kasparov had not joined the young protesters who had broken away from the crowd. He was detained after walking over to see what had happened to them.

Police have violently broken up several so-called Dissenters Marches in the past year, beating demonstrators and bystanders with truncheons and dragging many off to police stations. The city gave the organizers permission to hold the rally but forbid them to march to the Central Elections Commission. The protest was joined by several prominent politicians who had distanced themselves from Kasparov's opposition coalition in the past. "The feeling of disgust and protest has made us come here," said Vladimir Ryzhkov, a veteran independent parliament deputy who has been denied an opportunity to run for re-election under new election rules.

Also Saturday, police said three Moscow television journalists and a human rights activist heading to cover an opposition rally in the southern republic of Ingushetia were attacked by armed, masked men. Five men in masks and camouflage burst into their hotel overnight, beat them and abandoned them in a field, said the activist, Oleg Orlov. The four then made their way to a local police station, said Orlov, a member of the respected human rights group Memorial. All four remained in police custody Saturday morning.

REN TV anchor Marianna Maximovskaya was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying police were refusing to free the journalists and activist, insisting that they provide testimony against their attackers. The rally in Nazran, the main city in Ingushetia, was dispersed by riot police, and at least three people were detained.

How long before Kasparov joins Khodorkovsky in Siberia? Other Russia has the following report:

United Civil Front leader Garry Kasparov, former world chess champion, was arrested and beaten by police on Saturday at the conclusion of a “Dissenters’ March” rally held by The Other Russia Coalition, which opposes the authoritarian government of Vladimir Putin. He and over 20 others are still in custody. Kasparov’s official statements will appear here at as soon as he is able to communicate.

The peaceful march of roughly 2000 people had mostly ended when a small group of marchers moved to continue to the building of the Central Election Committee to deliver a petition. The marchers were attacked by special forces police and dozens were taken away. When Kasparov, who was not among the delegation, walked over to see what was happening, he was grabbed by police and pushed onto a bus with other arrestees. (Above: AFP photo of Kasparov on the police bus after being arrested.)

Almost all of those detained were physically abused by the police, including Kasparov. Several of the activists who have been released exhibited serious injuries sustained while in custody. Kasparov and over a dozen others were taken before the Meschansky court and charged with participating in an illegal rally. Despite the judge’s promises that defense witnesses would be allowed, the OMON security forces formed a cordon to prevent anyone from entering the court. It is still unclear if Kasparov and the others will be released promptly. Another Other Russia leader, Eduard Limonov, was also detained and his whereabouts are currently unknown. Human rights leader Lev Ponomarev was also arrested and brought into court. In the past, opposition activists have been detained in order to prevent participation in the next day’s event. A similar march will take place in St. Petersburg on Sunday, Nov. 25.

Official statements from the Moscow government said the Dissenters’ March could not be allowed because of problems it would cause for Moscow traffic. But the buses and the thousands of police forces they carried blocked at least five streets for a much longer time than the marchers would have occupied one street in order to deliver their petition. That petition, by the way, was delivered to the CEC regardless. United Civil Front director Denis Bilunov and UCF council member Maria Litvinovich presented the petition to CEC deputy director Alexei Kissin. The presented statement decries the loss of election rights across Russia and demands that the members of the CEC respect the law and the Constitution.

During Putin’s time in power, countless changes to election laws have been made. Many elections have been outright abolished in favor of appointees. Opposition parties have been squeezed out of existence by new requirements nearly impossible to fulfill. For these reasons, among others, many other parties have joined The Other Russia, including Boris Nemtsov and the Union of Right Forces and the Yabloko party. With the Kremlin in total control of the mass media in Russian, taking to the streets is the only viable way of getting the opposition message out to the Russian people. The long-running Kremlin propaganda campaign has produced polls boasting of Putin’s popularity, but when it comes to issues, a majority of Russians say they are dissatisfied with their standard of living and the direction of the country.

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