“He advised that I should shout louder, maybe someone would hear me”. How official solicitors sign the testimonies forced by torture, “Mediazona”

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18 December 2019
Illustration: Mariya Tolstova / Mediazona

The right to legal assistance, established by the Constitution, sometimes lead to investigators’ calling for unprincipled lawyers who help them to confirm the testimony obtained by violence. “Mediazona” describes several such cases in the Kuban, where the members of the Committee Against Torture are trying to fight against “yes-men” lawyers.

From the very start of their work in the Krasnodar Territory, human rights defenders with the Committee Against Torture noticed that in the criminal cases related to torture, there appear assigned lawyers who render legal assistance not according to the schedule established by the Chamber of Lawyers, but are invited free of turn by the familiar investigators.

According to head of the Kuban section Sergey Romanov, the law-enforcement officers use such lawyers to confirm the defendant’s confessions. Such lawyers who assist the investigation instead of standing for the rights of their clients are called “yes-men” in the lawyers’ community. According to Romanov, the lawyers are not just assisting the investigation but acquire additional income. Human rights defenders are trying to fight with submitting complaints to the Lawyers’ Chamber.

The work of the assigned lawyers

All the apprehended with regard to the criminal cases have a right to a lawyer who will represent their interests. If a person does not have a lawyer who work under agreement with him, the investigator is obliged to call a duty assigned lawyer — his work will be paid by the state. The investigators often manipulate this, not allowing the apprehended person to call his own lawyer and inviting the lawyer who is ready to play on the side of prosecution.

According to item 9 of part 1 of Article 9 of the Code of the professional ethics, the lawyer does not have a right to render legal assistance on call violating the procedure established by the Council of the Lawyers’ Chamber of the region — including the duty table of such lawyers.

On 22 November, the Council of the Lawyers’ Chamber of the Krasnodar Territory approved new rules of the assigned lawyers’ work — from now on they will be sent to the investigative activities and court hearings by a special coordinator who will form the assigned lawyers’ work schedule beforehand. Human rights defenders hope that it would be harder for investigators to simply call the loyal lawyer and call him for signing the confession obtained by torture.

“Why are we doing this? — Romanov says. — Firstly, because we want to punish these people, in order to teach the others not to do so. We also think that such people should not be involved in the practice of law. And, thirdly, we will certainly use it in our work, to disprove the data which was obtained with the involvement of these lawyers, so that it is declared illegal”.

According to the human rights defender, other lawyers usually know that their colleagues are working in bad faith, but do not complain against it due to “corporate solidarity”. “In the chamber I had a dialogue with one of the Council members who told me: “It seems you’re coming here regularly, who is paying you for writing about lawyers?” No one is paying me, I see problems and I raise to the chamber the issues that are necessary for their resolving”, — Romanov says.

“Mediazona” tells the stories of four clients of the Committee Against Torture from the Krasnodar Territory, who, according to them, confessed after tortures, and the “yes-men” called by the law-enforcement officers attested the documents with their signature without any questions.

The battery in the lawyer’s presence. The case of Evgeny Bounin

What happened. 43-year old Evgeny Bounin from Indyuk settlement told human rights defenders that in November 2018 the police officers called him to the Investigations Department for the Tuapse District and there demanded that he confessed of stealing an I-Phone from a woman visiting the trade center.

“They handcuffed me. [Police officer] Ilya asked if I’d be writing a confession. I answered negatively. To this he responded that I’d still be writing it anyway. After that he started to hit my head in various spots with his hands: fists, palms, etc. Every time I felt pain from these hits, — Bounin described.

According to the victim, the police officer named Ilya who was torturing him, was very drunk and while beating out the confession, he continued to drink vodka and poured vodka in the apprehended person. When Bounin signed everything, the police officer asked him to buy some more alcohol for him and his colleagues. After that the police officers gave a lift to the victim, having finished the bottle of vodka that he had bought, on the way.

When he came to his senses on the next day, Bounin applied to doctors who diagnosed him with a closed craniocerebral injury, brain concussion, extravasations and bruises.

What did the lawyer do? For the first time Mr Bounin saw his defense lawyer in the process of the battery: “At a certain moment, some unknown man came into the room who talked to [police officer] Ilya. I realized from their conversation that he was a lawyer. I asked him to render legal assistance to me, because unlawful methods of interrogation are applied to me. He advised that I shouted louder, maybe someone would hear me. After that he left the room. Ilya said that this lawyer was a former investigative officer and would not help me. After that Ilya started to hit me even stronger”.

According to Bounin, he signed a confession as dictated by the police officer, after that lawyer Ershov returned to the room and asked the apprehended person whether he confirms what is written. “In fear that the battery continues I answered that I confirmed”, — the victim says. The lawyer also signed a confession and presented the apprehended person with his business card, at parting saying: “Call me if there is a need”.

Consequences for the lawyer. In September, the Committee Against Torture submitted a complaint to President of the Chamber of Lawyers of the Krasnodar Territory Andrey Chekhov against Roman Yershov. Human rights defenders pointed out that on that day Yershov served in a capacity of an assigned lawyer outside the duty table, and, most probably, came to the department at the request of the police officers with the “purpose of creating an appearance of rendering legal assistance”. On 22 November, the qualification commission declared Yershov to be guilty. In a month, the Council of the Chamber of Lawyers should select a punishment for him.

Consequences for the client. Half a year after the battery the Investigative Committee, initiated a criminal case under Bounin’s report with regard to abuse of office using violence and special equipment (items “a” and “b” of Part 3 Article 286 of the Criminal Code). Half a year later it was closed. The victim works now as a shepherd. As a result, he remained a witness in the case on the theft of the phone over which the confession was beaten out of him.

A lawyer with eyes closed. The case of Olga Shvetsova

What happened. On 14 April 2018, Olga Shvetsova and her partner Valery Malakhov were brought to the Department of the Interior for the Gulkevichevsky District, where, according to Shvetsova, they were tortured and forced to confess of murdering the elderly neighbor Lubov Kozlikina.

According to Shvetsova, at the police department the police officers twisted her joints and hit her not only with hands but also with a dispenser plastic bottle and a hardcover book. They also opened the Criminal Code on a page with a murder article, telling her: “Read and think what awaits you”. According to the victim, one of the investigators was waving a phone with a photo of her dead neighbor before her eyes, promising to print a poster with her portrait and hang it in the cell for Shevtsova to “feast her eyes on it”.

As she recalls, at some moment the police officers opened a door in the room: “Police officer Aleksandr remained with me, who told me: “You know, your husband is suffering because of you. The more you are going to keep silent, the more he will suffer”. I could hear hits through the opened door. To be more exact, they were claps reminding of a sound of a foot hitting a ball”. After the night at the department and interrogation with the investigator, both apprehended persons were released. They did not acknowledge their guilt.

Five days later, the police officers apprehended Shevstova for the second time, and, according to her, beat her up again, when drinking vodka, and then left her at the department corridor, where she passed out. “When I came to my senses, I was sitting on a chair at the entrance, — Shevtsova told human rights defenders. — The chair was near the rails”. Two department officers stood nearby: “Sarkisyan started to tell me about his problems — that they need to crack this case, that he’s hardly ever at home. That he speaks with his wife only by phone. At that time, I started coughing, after that I started to vomit right at the entrance”. An ambulance was called for her, and while the doctors were on their way, Sarkisyan continued to complain to the apprehended woman about his hard life.

The court arrested Shevstova in the capacity of a suspect, but 10 days later she was released — the investigation failed to produce charges against her. For the second time she was arrested a year after that — on 2 July 2019. After four days of staying in the Kurganinsk temporary detention cell she signed a full confession.

On the same day, during an interrogation by the investigator, she said that her neighbor Kozlikina asked for some hot water, but there was no water in the house and Shvetsova denied her request. The neighbor started to growl and aimed a blow with a stone, and then Shvetsova hit her head — Kozlikina fell and hit her head against the concrete and died. According to the defendant, she left the body of the deceased right behind the fence — at the same time the body was found in a forest 20 km away.

A few days later, Shevtsova told lawyer Zaur Zakusilov, with whom she concluded an agreement back at the time of the first arrest, that she provided this testimony under pressure of the police officers.

What did the lawyer do? On the day of this interrogation, lawyer Mikhail Pastukhov came at the request of law-enforcement officers. The lawyer signed the confession and the protocol with confessionary statements. The video record of the interrogation was performed— it is seen in the record that Shvetsova is in the cage, and Pastukhov — a gray-haired man in a black T-shirt — is sitting near the cage with eyes closed and shakes his head from time to time. During 15-minutes interrogation he did not pronounce a single word and did not even take a look at his client.

Consequences for the lawyer. In the end of July, human rights defenders submitted a complaint to the President of the Chamber of Lawyers of the Krasnodar Territory against Pastukhov. This complaint mentioned that Pastukhov did not have a right to render legal assistance to Shvetsova, because she already had agreed lawyer Zaur Zakusilov at that point of time. At the same time, as it was pointed out in the complaint, the apprehended woman asked to call lawyer Zakusilov to her, but her offer was declined. Moreover, Pastukhov did not have a right to act as an assigned lawyer, because he was not in the list of lawyers on duty in July 2019 in Kurganinsk.

The Lawyers’ Chamber Council did not accept these arguments, having considered that Pastukhov did not act as an assigned lawyer in this case, because Shvetsova wrote a denial of lawyer Zakusilov’s services (she says she did it under pressure). But still, the Chamber of Lawyers pointed out that Pastukhov did not conclude a written agreement with the defendant as it is required by the law “On Advocacy and the Bar in the Russian Federation”, and issued an order of the lawyer, having indicated the ground of its issuing only on its backbone. He was given a warning note because of these violations.

Later on, human rights defenders found out that lawyer Pastukhov’s order was put in the case materials, and it featured a ground for its issuing written by another pen: “Agreement”. They assume that in this way someone — possibly, the investigator — attempted to lend legitimacy to Shvetsova’s appearance and interrogation.

Consequences for the defendant. In September 2018, the Investigative Department for the Gulkevichesky District refused to initiate a torture case with regard to the police officers. A year later, the Prosecutor’s Office quashed this ruling and submitted the materials of the check to the territorial investigative department. According to Mr Romanov with the Committee Against Torture, these materials have not been received by the investigation up to this day.

The Kurganinsky District Court started to review the murder case in the end of October. All this time Shvetsova remains at the Pre-trial Detention Center.

Interrogation without a lawyer who showed up late. Maksim Timoshenko’s case

What happened. In the beginning of August 2019, 36-year old Maksim Timoshenko was taken to the FSB Department for Gelendzhik town. Maksim works in ArKonStroy company as a specialist for registration of migration registration of foreign citizens. According to Maksim, at the FSB Department the special service officers started to beat him up, demanding that he confessed of organization of illegal migration. When they heard his refusal, the FSB officers grew very angry, Timoshenko describes. “You don’t understand where you are, we are not police!” At that moment, the apprehended was sitting on a chair, his hands were handcuffed behind his back.

“Another FSB officer, who was standing behind his back, put a bag made of strong fabric on his head, and pulled back the neck hole. <…> Almost immediately after this bag was put on him, he felt a strong blow by a fist at the back of his head from the right, closer to the right ear, which caused strong physical pain” – stated in the Timoshenko’s evidence which he gave during the checking of his torture complaint.

According to the apprehended, more blows followed, including — with a forehead against side-table. Then, the operative officers started to beat Timoshenko up with an electric shocker device. Exhausted by violence, the apprehended person agreed to the demands of the FSB officers.

What did the lawyer do? Timoshenko was taken to the Department of the Interior for Gelendzhik where he was interrogated by investigator Kuranova. According to the apprehended, lawyer Natalya Dremlyuga entered the room only after the interrogation ended, and she signed all the documents. She said that she did not make it in time for the interrogation because she was busy at court (judging by the court website, at that moment the verdict for the case which Dremlyuga led, was announced). Sergey Romanov with the Committee Against Torture, referring to the words of the local lawyers, points out that Dremlyuga is a wife of the head of the investigative department for Gelendzhik.

Consequences for the lawyer. In September, Timoshenko submitted a complaint against Dremlyuga to the President of the Lawyers’ Chamber of the Krasnodar Territory. He pointed out that he did not conclude an agreement with her, and she did not have a right to render legal assistance to him in the capacity of an assigned lawyer, because her turn as per the schedule was due only in a month. At the same time, as Timoshenko points out, actually Dremlyuga did not render any legal assistance, but only provided the status “of acceptable evidence” to his testimony, obtained under torture.

Moreover, when Timoshenko complained of tortures, the lawyer told the investigator that the interrogation to which she was late went “without violation of procedural norms”, the apprehended person looked calm and did not “come up with any statements”. Thus, Dreumlyuga violated one more item of the Lawyer’s professional ethics’ code, according to which the defense lawyer does not have a right to provide witness testimony on circumstances which became known to him due to his performing his professional duties.

On 22 November, the Council of the Lawyers’ Chamber declared Dremlyuga to be guilty of violation of the lawyers’ ethics and issued a warning. Sergey Romanov points out that it is not clear yet to human rights defenders for what exact violation the lawyer was punished.

Consequences for the client. In the end of August, investigator of the Military Investigative Department for the Krasnodar Territory Kuleshov examined Timoshenko’s torture complaint and refused to initiate a criminal case with regard to the FSB officers. Till October the man was at large in the capacity of a suspect in the case of illegal migration, and then charges were produced against him and he was sent to Pre-Trial Detention Center No.3 of Novorossiysk.

“In the presence of the lawyer performed hits against the head”. Denis Karimov’s case

What happened. In the end of April 2017, 32-year old Denis Karimov from Gelendzhik was apprehended in the Karachayevo-Cherkesiya, where he came for his mother’s birthday, and brought to the Gelendzhik Police Department. As Karimov told later to the investigators, at the police department the officers started to demand that he confessed of violent assault against the local citizen.

According to the apprehended, when he started to insist on his innocence, the police officers beat him up, brought him down on the floor and put a chair on him. Shoes were taken off the left foot of Karimov and a unit resembling the charger for car batteries was put nearby.

“Connecting the wire or a string to the left foot, they sent an electric charge, — Karimov told. — At first it was not very powerful. I heard three clicks, resembling those which regulate some parameter of the instruments. Later on, when I answered to all the officers’ questions that I did not know anything, some of them said: “Let it go full swing” — and I heard a lot more clicks. The current intensity noticeably increased. It was very painful, the body muscles contracted, there was a feeling they were ready to burst”.

According to the apprehended, the officers threatened to connect the wires to his scrotum, insert the rubber truncheon in his rectum, make a photo of it and send to the Pre-Trial Detention Facility. Karimov says that he could not bear the pain and agreed to defame himself.

What did the lawyer do? Karimov claimed that he signed a confession as dictated by the investigator right in the presence of assigned lawyer Olga Devicheva: “When I said I did not want to confess, Vyacheslav was hitting at my head in the lawyer’s presence”. At first, Devicheva signed the appearance, and then the minutes of the interrogation. She also represented Karimov’s interests during the investigative activities in the days to follow, as well.

Consequences for the lawyer. The apprehended person’s mother, Klara Karimova, submitted a complaint against Devicheva, and in March, the qualification commission of the Chamber of Lawyers of the Krasnodar Territory decided that she violated the Code of the professional ethics by providing legal assistance to Karimov not according to the schedule of assigned lawyers.

In addition, lawyer Devicheva put a signature on the confession, which, according to the time indicated on the document, was drawn up ten minutes before the criminal case was opened. The Commission deemed it to be a violation, as the defense lawyer should not have been called before the case opening altogether. On 26 April 2018, the Council of the Lawyers’ Chamber issued a warning to her.

Consequences for the client. In June 2018, the Investigative Committee refused to initiate criminal proceedings with regard to his torture, and in August, the Gelendzhiksky City Court sentenced Karimov to seven years of maximum security penal colony, having declared him guilty of assault with intent to rob.

Editor: Egor Skovoroda
Source: Mediazona, Anastasia Yasenitskaya