By Stephen Wilson
(Moscow, Russia) - Legal justice is always vulnerable to being bent by crooked interests especially if the legal system appoints ill-trained,amateurish and amoral judges in court cases. Instead of pursuing and putting real criminals behind bars, the Russian legal system all too often thrusts honest people into prison!
As an old Russian saying goes, 'To do good is to be punished' and perhaps this is why a Russian art teacher and director of the House of Culture, Ilya Farber is currently serving 7
years hard labour in a penal colony for a crime he certainly did not commit.
Farber is hardly an exceptional case. There are thousands of innocent businessmen, teachers and human rights activists in prison awaiting a government amnesty which might never ever reach them. For as the present case of Navalny demonstrates, justice can assume a highly capricious and whimsical if not wild character. Like the mood of the worst drunk men, it can swing from unprincipled pragmatism to petty bullying. The accused doesn't know when the door of the prison cell might swing open because officials have had no time to sober up.
So caprice can cancel out and annul justice on a spurious whim.
By all legal standards and norms, the trial of the rural teacher and artist Ilya Farber represents a travesty of justice as well as an insult to human intelligence.
The events took place in the Moshenka Ostashkoskoy area of the Tversky region of Russia. The artist and teacher Ilya Fabrer, together with his family of three children, moved from Moscow to work as a teacher in a rural school not far from Moscow. Farber appears to be a highly talented and educated teacher capable of teaching a wide number of subjects encompassing art, literature and music! He helped organise celebrations in the local House of Culture in 2011.
The local administration were so impressed by his efforts they asked him to become the director of the house of culture. It must have seemed a great challenge at the time. Here was a unique opportunity to fully apply his talents to serve the community! But what was the realization of a dream almost abruptly turned into a dreadful nightmare which makes a Kafka story look like a serene picnic in the park.
Farber found that the House of culture was afflicted by dreadful financial problems. The House of culture had previously made a highly imprudent contract with an unreliable building construction company called 'Gorstro one'. Farber discovered that the contract for renovating the house of culture was long overdue. As with many construction projects, it never seemed to be completed by the promised deadline. And the completion of the contract was way well overdue.
This was not all! The estimated costs of the renovation had been exaggerated by three times and the quality of the work was substandard.To put it succinctly, the building contractor Yuri Gorokhov was a complete conman. His company was in financial trouble. According to Farber, he would execute part of the work himself and employed people by taking their money, brought building materials and took out loans in order to lend money to himself. He allegedly pocketed 2.5 million roubles from the budget for renovation.
Gorokhov promised to cover the costs but did not provide a list of the expenses he owed. There was just no accountability! In September 2011, Farber came to the office of Gorokhov to ask for an explanation about a huge debt which Gorokhov had amounted. When he dropped in, he was immediately arrested by a member of the Federal Security Burea. Unknown to poor Farber, Gorkhov had written a declaration accusing him of extortion and bribery. The allegations against Farber are that he obtained 300,000 roubles from the director of a commercial firm for calling a building contractor to continue working for the building belonging to the House of culture and after a month asked for the overdue 132,000 roubles for signing an act of completed work. Because of this activity, Farber was reputed to be the main cause of the damage incurred to the budget which stood at the loss of 941,000 roubles.
Yet there was not a shred of real evidence supporting this claim.The accusation was simply a document written by someone then signed by officials!
Farber did not hear of any legal proceedings against him. The procurator and judge, without any warning or genuine evidence, condemned Farber as 'a prior criminal.' There was no careful or conscientious investigation of what had happened. It was all unprofessional! Instead of posing the logical question, 'What actually happened?' the officials simply endorsed and affirmed an unreliable accusation.
Every time Farber attempted to prove his innocence, none of the judges listened. Instead, they simply answered, 'We are not interested in listening to his case. He is already guilty' or 'Let us do this quicker, the testimony is boring,' or 'How can it be that you are innocent. It can't be!'
Straightforward evidence that Farber gave bribes has never been offered by the procurator or the court. Not a shred of convincing evidence has been offered to justify Farber's conviction. If anyone had heard the dialogue of the court proceeding it would read like a surrealistic Lewis Carol story. Only we are not in wonderland, but Russia. It would be amusing, if it were not so tragic.
Farber was found 'guilty' and sentenced to 7 years in a harsh penal colony and fined 3.17 million roubles despite the absence of financial damages. No thought was given to the health of Farber or how anyone could support his three young children. This conviction not only sentences Farber, but his whole family.
Any normal court system would have thrown out the case against Farber. The police, judges and procurators violated all the legal norms and rules of justice. That is there must be sufficient evidence by the procurator to begin a legal case, the accused must be given notice and his defence must be taken into consideration by the judge. A professional judge does not dismiss evidence on the grounds he finds 'it boring'. A court case is not organised for the amusement of judges, and hard as it might seem to believe, a court is not a circus.
Many of the Russian judges and procurators have turned out to be backward, ill educated and even illiterate. The documents written against the accused are often full of gross spelling errors and bad grammar. Those are the kind of people employed to judge highly refined and educated people who are innocent!
Justice is apparently upside-down and lop-sided. It represents a kind of 'Leshii justice'. A Leshii was a Russian forest sprite who did everything in an inverse way and wore his clothes inside out and put his shoes on the wrong feet. He always offered to lead wanderers the right way, when he lead them the wrong way.
It is high time this Leshii and listless law was challenged, and people like Ilya Farber immediately released. Russian and American teachers should shame the Russian authorities into releasing him. The Russian government could take the opportunity to release him under the promised new Government Amnesty. Trade Unions should actively campaign for his release by drawing up a petition for teachers and others to sign. The sooner he is freed, the better!