On 9 October L.N. Shvetsova, Judge of Vladimir Regional Court, dismissed the cassation appeal against the decisions of two court instances on “extremist” nature of “Bailiff Piety” documentary referred to by Portal-Credo.Ru. As reported by Portal-Credo.Ru, the appeal was lodged by Damir Gainutdinov, representative of Alexander Soldatov, founder of the Portal, on 13 August. It specified the flagrant violations of material and procedural laws on the part of Oktyabrsky District Court of Vladimir and Vladimir Regional Court in the course of the trials on the case instituted by the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Vladimir.
“Bailiff Piety” showing the attempts of the court bailiffs of the city of Vladimir to confiscate the relics of Saints Euphymios and Euphrosynia of Suzdal from the temple of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (ROAC) in the autumn of 2012 had been posted on YouTube. In January 2013 Portal-Credo.Ru published the html code of the documentary. In February of the same year the Vladimir Regional Directorate of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation sent the film to the experts of the RF Ministry of Justice for examination. Additional expert examinations followed in the autumn of 2014. Then the film and the expert reports were filed with the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Vladimir along with the claim for the acknowledgment of the documentary as “extremist”. The first instance court satisfied the claim on 21 November 2014. On 17 February 2015 the appeals against this court decision lodged by Alexander Soldatov, the respondent in the case, and Mikhail Baranov, director of the film were dismissed by the appeals instance, i.e. the Vladimir Regional Court which also supplemented the decision of the first instance court by the demand to have the film confiscated at the place of its discovery. In April 2015 “Bailiff Piety” was entered in the RF List of Extremist Materials by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation and access to the entire Portal-Credo.Ru was blocked by MegaFon communication services provider. This was done in spite of the fact that the documentary had never been published by Portal-Credo and the reference to the relevant html code had been deleted at the time of the court hearings. Along with these measures the Federal Supervision Agency for Information Technologies and Communications carried out the unscheduled government inspection of our mass medium.
The experts examinations on which the court relied in its decision had been the inadequate pieces of evidence under the RF law. Such was the key argument set out in the respondent’s cassation appeal. The law does not allow any party to a trial to carry out expert examinations. However, the RF Ministry of Justice was admitted by the court as a party concerned in the case. Moreover, the experts were not warned of the criminal liability for false evidence, and the report on the only expert examination (out of seven) which discovered the elements of “extremism” in the film did not have any specification of its time and place, nor any details of its initiator, the questions that had been posed to the expert and the methods used by him in the course of the examination. The court failed to give any comment on the reports on the examinations submitted by the respondent, although, under the law, they were to prevail over the similar reports of the claimant since the respondent’s examinations had been carried out by the experts with higher levels of skills, and some of them had been carried out by two or more experts.
According to the opinion of the applicant, the court misapplied the RF Federal Law on Anti-Extremist Activities and ignored the Decree of the Plenary Meeting of the RF Supreme Court dated 28 June 2011 on the Judicial Practice in the Cases of Crimes of Extremist Nature. Calls for extremism are regarded by the RF Supreme Court as calls to other persons expressly worded with a view to inspire them to start extremist activities. None of the reports of the expert examinations identified such calls in “Bailiff Piety”.
The cassation appeal also specified the violations of the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights ratified by Russia and the legal principles of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on the part of both court instances.
On 23 October the representative of Alexander Soldatov lodged his appeal in exercise of supervisory power with the RF Supreme Court. Under the law, the Supreme Court has two to three months for the review of this appeal (depending on the time of the evocation of the case by the Supreme Court).