Court rejects Kagarlitsky’s appeal: Campaign pledges to redouble efforts for his freedom

June 7, 2024
Boris Kagarlitsky behind bars via video link
Boris Kagarlitsky appearing via video link at his appeal hearing. Photo: Supplied

“Unjust but not unexpected” is how Suzi Weissman, spokesperson for the Boris Kagarlitsky International Solidarity Campaign, described the June 5 decision of a Russian court to reject Boris Kagarlitsky’s appeal against a five-year jail term for “justifying terrorism”.

The court also maintained the ban preventing the well-known Marxist sociologist and anti-war activist from managing internet sites and telecommunications channels for two years from the end of his prison sentence.

Weissman said: “The judges’ draconian decision was no great surprise since all recent appeals against sentences brought down under Russia’s catch-all anti-terrorism legislation have been rejected.”

The charge of “justifying terrorism”, which has been widely used against anti-war activists in the Russian Federation, was brought against Kagarlitsky on July 25 last year after he made some ironical remarks on the occasion of the Ukrainian Navy’s July 17 attack on the bridge connecting Crimea to Russia.

The decision of the body hearing Kagarlitsky’s appeal (the Judicial Collegium for Military Personnel of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation) means that he will now remain confined in a penal settlement in Torzhok (Tver region).

Kagarlitsky’s lawyer, Sergey Erokhov, has already stated on his Telegram channel (June 5) that he will continue with the appeal process, taking the case to higher instances of the Russian legal system, starting with the Praesidium of the Supreme Court and going as far as the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation.

International appeal ignored

The appeals court judges refused to budge on Kagarlitsky’s sentence despite a special appeal from 37 internationally prominent progressive political figures and intellectuals, including Yanis Varoufakis, Jeremy Corbyn and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, as well as ministers in the Spanish government and MPs from France, Portugal, Ireland, Belgium and Brazil.

The signatories emphasised that Kagarlitsky has never advocated terrorist methods to reach political objectives and that keeping him in jail would tarnish Russia’s international reputation.

Since his jailing Kagarlitsky has also received offers of university postings in Brazil and South Africa, while the ongoing petition demanding his release has attracted more than 18,000 signatures to date.

Increasing repression

The court rejected the two main arguments of Kagarlitsky’s defence formulated by lawyer Erekhov, namely: “(1) it is impossible to judge a social scientist … for his professional activities and (2) punishment must be fair, i.e. it must correspond to the nature of a crime, the degree of danger it entails for the public and the circumstances in which it is committed.”

For Weissman, the judges’ “barbarous” decision to ignore such basic legal criteria reflects the determination of the Vladimir Putin regime to crush domestic opposition to its war on Ukraine.

“In this context the basic democratic and legal rights of anti-war activists like Boris Kagarlitsky and thousands of others count for very little.

“Upholding Boris’s appeal would have set a very bad precedent for the Kremlin: if his argument had been accepted, why not that of everyone else condemned for ‘justifying terrorism’?”

Weissman concluded that Kagarlitsky has become a “courageous champion of peace and symbol of the struggle for the right to freedom of expression, who has been the victim of a gross but entirely deliberate miscarriage of justice”.

The Boris Kagarlitsky International Solidarity Campaign will now redouble its efforts for his release. Details of a new round of initiatives will be announced soon.

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