Russian Interior Ministry Attacks Another Hermitage Lawyer After the Torture and Murder of Sergei Magnitsky
June 3, 2010
Alexander Antipov, the Russian lawyer who has been advising Hermitage Capital since the illegal arrest and detention of Sergei Magnitsky, has himself now come under attack from the Russian Interior Ministry. Following Antipov’s filing of over 20 complaints and petitions about the unlawful actions taken by investigators and judges against Sergei Magnitsky and his client, Hermitage Capital executives, the Interior Ministry is now threatening to prosecute lawyer Antipov based on a petition filed with the Moscow City Bar Association in an attempt to disbar him. Mr Antipov is the eighth lawyer for Hermitage Capital who has come under attack from the Russian Interior Ministry. Last year, the Council of Europe condemned these attacks on the lawyers and executives of Hermitage Capital as “politically-motivated abuse[s] of the criminal justice system.” The attack on Antipov is being organized by Investigator Oleg Silchenko of the Interior Ministry’s Investigative Committee, the very same investigator who helped to orchestrate the illegal arrest, detention, torture and murder of anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky last year after Magnitsky had exposed Interior Ministry officers’ embezzlement of $230 million of funds from the Russian treasury.
“It wasn’t enough for the Interior Ministry to drive six of our lawyers out of the country. It wasn’t enough that they tortured and killed Sergei Magnitsky in custody. Now they are going after the eighth lawyer. Corrupt law enforcement officials should not be able to ruin the lives of innocent people with carte blanche. Everything must be done to protect the personal safety of Alexander Antipov and to stop the Interior Ministry officers who are now endangering him,” said a Hermitage Capital spokesperson.
To organize the attack on Antipov, Silchenko and the Interior Ministry has been falsifying evidence. Last September, Antipov visited his clients in London to discuss the case, and upon his return to Moscow he submitted one of his client’s statements to Investigator Silchenko at the Interior Ministry. Silchenko then accepted this statement and added it to the case file. Now, in an attempt to intimidate and harass Antipov, eight months later, Silchenko is claiming that Antipov did not travel to London last September, did not meet his client and therefore falsely submitted his statement. In the face of concrete evidence of Antipov’s travel to London (namely, his airline ticket, his visa and the stamps in his passport), Silchenko is now advancing this false claim before the Moscow City Bar Association to prosecute the lawyer for the sole purpose of eliminating another Hermitage defense lawyer.
Alexander Antipov was retained by Hermitage Capital executives in the summer of 2009. In the course of representing his clients, Antipov has sought to remove judges who showed bias and has challenged the illegal actions taken by Interior Ministry investigators, including unreasonable extensions of pre-trial investigations, illegal issuance of decrees, unlawful mergers of cases, and the denial of lawyer’s access to documents which is mandatory under Russian law. In particular, Antipov filed has complaints with Russian courts at all levels, the Russian General Prosecutor’s office and the Interior Ministry itself regarding Investigator Oleg Silchenko. In these complaints, Antipov has set forth Silchenko’s active role in organizing repressive cases against innocent people and in the torture and death in detention of 37-year old lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. Antipov has also highlighted the continuing cover-up of the involvement of senior Interior Ministry officers, ArtemKuznetsov and Pavel Karpov, in the theft of $230 million from the Russian treasury through the payment of fraudulent tax refunds.
Investigator Silchenko was personally responsible for the repression and torture of Sergei Magnitsky in custody. He denied Magnitsky’s petitions for urgent medical care and violated Magnitsky’s fundamental rights and freedoms, including his right to life. He denied Magnitsky and his lawyers access to mandatory case documents. He denied Magnitsky’s lawyers any information about Magnitsky’s health several hours before his death. Earlier, Silchenko was involved in another politically motivated case against a leader of Russian independent media, Manana Aslamazyan.
The motivation of Investigator Silchenko in repressing the Hermitage Capital lawyers was summarized by Sergei Magnitsky in his hand-written statement prepared four days prior to his tragic death: “I have been detained in prison for a year as a hostage in the interests of the persons, whose intention it is to ensure that the criminals actually guilty in the theft of 5.4 billion rubles [$230 million] from the state budget will never be found… Investigator Silchenko does not want to identify the other [other than a sawmill employee] persons, who made this fraud possible. He instead wants the lawyers of the Hermitage Fund, who pursued and continue to pursue attempts for this case to be investigated, be forced to emigrate from their country in which criminal cases were filed against them, or like me be detained in prison. My imprisonment has nothing in common with the legal purposes of criminal proceedings.., but this is a punishment for my merely defending the interests of my client, and finally the interests of the State” [Excerpt from Sergei Magnitsky’s hand-written notes to court, 12 November 2009].
Alexander Antipov is a 57-year old Russian lawyer who has been a member of the Moscow Bar Association since 1990.
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More on the Persecution of Hermitage Lawyers see in the Council of Europe’s Report on Politically Motivated Abuse of the Criminal Justice System:
p 4, 26-28, 32-36