The case of Zara Murtazaliyeva, 21, a Chechen woman recently sentenced to nine years in prison for planning a series of terrorist acts in Moscow, is simply numbing.
Part of her story, in English, is here, written by a human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina. An Ekho Moskvy radio interview, in Russian, with Gannushkina and Murtazaliyeva's lawyer is here.
Here's part of the judge's justification for the harsh sentence:
"Murtazaliyeva, in her conversation with (the two women) showed a negative attitude towards the state, and was an active opponent of Russia's existing constitutional structure," the judge said, according to Interfax news agency.
"Apart from this, she presented a positive image of terrorist suicide-bombers."
According to Gazeta.ru (in Russian), Murtazaliyeva had initially been alleged to have received a suicide bomber's training at a terrorist training camp in Baku, Azerbaijan, but later these accusations were discarded after Azerbaijan denied having such camps on its territory. Also, the prosecution initially claimed that Murtazaliyeva fought on the side of anti-Russian forces during the first Chechen war, 1994-1996. But her mother soon provided the documents certifying that her daughter, aged 11 at that time, was a high school student then.
Murtazaliyeva's lawyers are now preparing to appeal the verdict in the Supreme Court.
After spending some time thinking about Murtazaliyeva, it is even more numbing to read Anna Politkovskaya's piece in Novaya Gazeta (in Russian), about 40 members of the National Bolshevik Party (NBP) on trial now for an "attempted violent seizure of power in the Russian Federation."
Of the 40 people, there is one 15-year-old, two 16-year-olds, one 30- and one 31-year-old; the rest are aged between 17 and 24; nine are females; Politkovskaya lists their names, ages, places of residence and occupations.
On Dec. 14, they entered the presidential administration's public office in the center of Moscow (to which every citizen is supposed to have free access), blocked the entrance with a safe-deposit box, pasted the following slogans on the windows - Putin, leave voluntarily! and Putin, dive after "Kursk"! - and yelled some more slogans for the next 45 minutes, until the police arrived and detained them.
The potential prison sentences for this offense range from 12 to 20 years.
Strange, wouldn't you agree? What they have done in no way matches the punishment they are facing. This is obvious to anyone, including those who do not accept the ideology and methods of the NBP. What a silly thing it is to call a shabby government department that does nothing but re-send mail (that's what a public office has always been), "a central organ of the presidential power" - and to call the re-senders, those who receive and register petitions, "the leaders of the Russian State."
Politkovskaya's article is very good, as always, but it's too long to translate (hopefully, it'll be included in one of her future anthologies, and then translated into English by someone more determined than I am). So here's just a tiny little fragment of it, in which she compares the situation with the young National Bolsheviks to the situation in Chechnya:
An extremely depressing discovery - for me, personally - which I made after my conversations with the parents of the National Bolsheviks (the "Decembrists") was this: what they are telling about themselves and their children is exactly the same as what parents in Chechnya are telling about themselves and their sons. Young people there are getting radicalized swiftly - and often they are the best young people there are out there. Apart from the war, the reasons for radicalization are similar - they have no legal way to let out their emotions and oppositional feelings, there's no way and cannot be any, because the government has only left space for illegal outbursts. Only physical opposition for those who are capable of it. And internal emigration for those who cannot seize a public office or "leave for the mountains."
Many human rights advocacy groups have stood up to defend the 40 National Bolsheviks accused of an "attempted violent seizure of power in the Russian Federation." Nothing like this has happened in a long time. The Russian PEN Center. And the Memorial Human Rights Center. All this because the situation has no precedents and we're talking about self-defense, too: 20 years for political hooliganism. According to Aleksandr Tkachenko (PEN), "the dictatoship of law has turned into raping of the law." The government is gradually separating itself from the nation. Moreover, it's doing it consciously. And if one doesn't oppose it now, then tomorrow the government can do the same with anyone.
The human rights people united and decided to come out to Pushkin Square Jan. 15 - to rally against dictatorship whose victims are the National Bolsheviks. But the government banned the rally.
This last part kind of sobered me up - I realized that I probably wouldn't be able to force myself to attend a rally in support of NBP, no matter how outrageous their case is. I'm too disgusted with their ideas and worldviews to trust them and to risk anything for their sake - I just can't get over it. Maybe I'm wrong. Politkovskaya is right, though, no doubt. A paradox. But I can't help it. Maybe I'm too principled (though normally I'm not).
Too bad Russia seems to lack young people who are like Tanya, the girl I wrote about here.
What's even more depressing is that the cases against Murtazaliyeva and the NBP guys are most likely just the tip of the iceberg - this country has managed to kill millions slightly over half a century ago and no one really noticed, until the government deemed it necessary to inform us, for some reason, when it was too late...