Ex-director of Moscow’s Library of Ukrainian Literature
Moscow’s Meshchansky district court has found the former director of the Library of Ukrainian Literature NATALYA SHARINA guilty of disseminating extremist literature and large-scale fraud and given her a four-year suspended sentence.
Earlier, the prosecution had asked for Sharina to be sentenced to a five-year suspended sentence. According to lawyer Ivan Pavlov, the defence was not allowed to present a video during the judicial proceedings that proves that the books had been planted. In an interview with Radio Svoboda the day before the verdict was announced, IVAN PAVLOV spoke about the proceedings.
– Of course, we weren’t able to accomplish everything we had planned since the court did not investigate some of the evidence we put forward. In particular, we wanted to investigate the video footage I received from the library on request back in the first days after the search.
These are clips from the security camera in which you can see that people entered the library premises with large bags. It’s unclear what was in these bags, and the entrance and exit from the library were virtually unmonitored. Additionally, a portion of the witnesses confirmed that they saw individuals involved in the search throw some books in. The court denied our request to include these video clips and investigate them during the trial. But, that said, the witnesses were interrogated, so you can’t say that the court completely neglected all of our due-process rights. We were able, I believe, to present a sufficient amount of evidence to exculpate Natalia Sharina.
– In your opinion, how strong was the prosecution’s case? I remember that there were witnesses from their side who testified in favour of Natalia Sharina.
– You know, I believe that there wasn’t a single witness who could have brought anything substantive to the case for the prosecution. There just weren’t any witnesses like that, and there couldn’t have been, since we were talking about the fact that the prosecution up to this point hasn’t even bothered to define specifically which of Natalia Sharina’s concrete actions were criminal.
This matter was relevant both during the preliminary investigation and during the trial, and time and again we took note of it. However, if the explanation isn’t concrete, then proving it to the prosecution will be fairly difficult. As for the final note, when the prosecuting official requested a suspended sentence for Natalia Sharina, I consider that to be a positive thing. Nowadays it’s very common for prosecuting officials to speak and insist on harsh sentences, and even during the hearings I found it necessary to thank the prosecutor for not showing the usual severity in this case.
– Among the public there is an opinion that if the prosecutor requests a suspended sentence, or if the judge sentences someone to a suspended sentence, this could be considered an acquittal. In your opinion, how much is this request for a suspended sentence an acknowledgement from the prosecutor that they essentially don’t have evidence?
– I’ll answer this question after the judge has pronounced the sentence, given that to try to predict now what the judge will ultimately do would be bad luck. We do not yet know what the verdict will be, if it will acquit or if it will convict. There have been cases when the prosecutor demanded a suspended sentence but the defendant received actual prison time. So I’m holding my assessment until the sentence is given.
– Do you have information on why the reading of the verdict slated for June 1 was rescheduled? Was there some sort of technical reason for this, or is it worth looking, for example, for underlying political reasons?
– These things happen. The court was just unable to formalize and write the sentence in time. It extended the timeframe so the sentence could be written. I wouldn’t say this happens often, but sometimes courts can’t finish within the set timeframe due to various circumstances and they extend the deadline. The law allows for this, and there’s nothing unusual about it. Of course, it’s unpleasant when you’re focused on a certain date, and all the more so for Natalia Sharina with a broken spine and in terrible pain, arriving at the courthouse just to be met with a closed door, to turn around and leave – it’s unpleasant, but it’s permitted by the law, there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
– And what about Natalia Sharina, how is her health?
– The state of her health is what you’d expect given the situation. This person has been under house arrest since October 2015 and only in the past half a year has been able to take short, two-hour walks. Before that she wasn’t even able to take walks, she sat locked up in the confines of four walls. Of course, no one’s health gets better in such a situation. Moreover, we presented the court with the necessary documents that confirm that after her arrest, when she was being transported in a police van on 29 October 2015, when she had already been arrested, she fractured her spine. And this is no joke; after all, this diagnosis requires constant medical attention, which is impossible to provide while under house arrest, concluded Ivan Pavlov. […]