Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Khimki hostage released in Russia

KHIMKI hostage Alexei Gaskarov has been released from police custody by a Russian municipal court.

On July 28 this year more than two hundred young antifascists and anarchists carried out a spontaneous demonstration outside the town administration building in Khimki, a suburb of Moscow.

They were protesting in defence of the Khimki Forest, under threat from plans for a toll motorway.

The demonstration, during which several windows were broken, received a great deal of public attention.

The authorities responded with a wave of repression. The day after the demonstration, two well-known social activists, Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov, were arrested.

A statement on October 22 posted on Infoshop news says: "Judge Svetlana Galanova made the decision to release Gaskarov on his own recognizance, ignoring an appeal from the prosecution to leave him in police custody.

"Alexei reacted by saying that he had not expected this decision because he has no faith in the Russian justice system.

"The prosecution presented no new arguments to support its request to keep Gaskarov in police custody, with the exception of a report issued by the FSB.

"The report states that Alexei Gaskarov has been a member of the Antifa IYA (apparently, 'informal youth association') since 2007; that he has extensive contacts, including with foreign countries, which is corroborated by his multiple trips abroad; that he has participated in and organized unsanctioned protest actions; and that the last time he was detained was on March 20, 2010, during the Day of Rage protest action.

"In his testimony, Alexei stated that antifascism is not a crime, that his antifascist views cannot be cause to place him under arrest, and that his trips abroad are his own personal affair.

"Gaskarov told the court that he was present at the March 20 Day of Rage protest in his capacity as a correspondent for the Institute for Collective Action (IKD) and that after his arrest he had been acquitted of all charges by a justice of the peace.

"Gaskarov had likewise traveled to Khimki on July 28 as an IKD correspondent, which was confirmed in a letter submitted by the institute’s directors.

"Civil rights activist Lev Ponomaryov, who participated in the hearing as a counsel for the defense, likewise voiced his bewilderment over the fact that the prosecution had portrayed antifascist convictions as a negative character factor, whereas in reality society should be proud of such people because they protect it from fascism.

"According to Ponomaryov, it is a very good thing that such people are resolute in their convictions.

"The court heard testimony from Andrei Demidov, deputy director of the Institute for Collective Action. Demidov confirmed that Gaskarov had been dispatched to Khimki as an IKD correspondent.

"Georgy Semyonovsky, Gaskarov’s lawyer, reminded the court that five well-respected citizens — Lev Ponomaryov, executive director of the For Human Rights movement; civil rights activist Sergei Kovalyov and Liudmila Alexeeva; and State Duma deputies Ilya Ponomaryov and Oleg Shein – had agreed to vouch for his client’s reliability.

"On October 18, the Khimki Municipal Court likewise released Maxim Solopov from police custody on his own recognizance. Like Gaskarov, Solopov has been charged with disorderly conduct for his alleged participation in a protest action outside the Khimki town hall.

"The Campaign for the Release of the Khimki Hostages congratulates Maxim Solopov and Alexei Gaskarov on their conditional release from police custody, but believes that it has not achieved its goals and intends to keep fighting until all charges against them have been dropped.

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