Kasparov on forced hunger strike – now release from prison

11/29/2007 – "We have strictly instructed him not to drink any water or eat any food they offer him in detention," says Kasparov's lawyer Karinna Moskalenko. The fear is that he might be poisoned. Amnesty International have condemned the arrest, classifying Kasparov as a prisoner of conscience. Meanwhile old rival Anatoly Karpov tried to visit Kasparov in jail but was denied access. Latest: Kasparov is free.

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We have just received word that Garry Kasparov has been released from jail and is now at his home, surrounded by reporters, who will produce a new tsunami of reports in the next hours and days. Kasparov was taken from his original place of detention to a different police station and whisked from there to his home in a military car. All this to avoid scenes by his supporters, who were waiting outside the detention center together with international media representatives.

Interview with Karinna Moskalenko

On November 25 Robert Amsterdam had the chance to speak with Kasparov's lawyer Karinna Moskalenko, who is currently in Strasbourg. Karinna is an exceptionally brave lawyer, who has faced disbarment proceedings in the past for efforts to defend human rights in Russia. She revealed details about the arrest and detainment of Kasparov.

Garry was the only one who was put through a rush trial, while all the others were postponed until Monday. Olga Mikhailova, the lawyer representing Garry in these proceedings, told me that it was clear that the judge wanted to postpone the case like all the others, but after spending just a few minutes in the deliberation room, he came back out and said that Kasparov’s was of special interest, and that they would proceed at once. It was though he were following an order.

Garry was being held at Petrovka 38, the infamous headquarters of the Moscow police, and despite repeated attempts by lawyers seeking to speak with those that were arrested, they were only allowed into the court at the last minute as a justification by the authorities. Today, following delays lasting many hours, Olga was allowed to see Kasparov.

According to my knowledge, Garry was not beaten during his arrest. He was handled roughly and forcefully placed under arrest by very hostile officers. Since his admission to custody, we have strictly instructed him not to drink any water or eat any food they offer him. I also relayed this message to him via his mother, Klara Kasparova. As we speak, Olga is expecting to gain admission to the facility to meet with Garry and bring him water. It’s very difficult for someone to stay in prison for five days without consuming their water and food.

We have spent the night preparing a motion to present to Amnesty International to have Garry declared a prisoner of conscience. We are also completing our submission to the European Court on Human Rights, denouncing the government's aggravation. We hope that the court will give the case priority, because if the international community does not act to stop what is happening here, no one will.

Robert Amsterdam on Kasparov's forced hunger strike

Were it not such a serious situation, the jailing of opposition leader and chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov by the Putin regime would be richly ironic. For in what other nation are dissidents forced to go on hunger strikes while the price of bread and milk go through the roof?

Kasparov’s forced hunger strike illustrates a number of severe incongruities resulting from Russia’s current distorted political reality. Why, for example, is the state cracking down so hard on candidates and critics who they’ve already barred from competing in the elections? Why does the president’s stridency and hostility to the outside world increase to new levels with each passing day, despite his overwhelming majority in the polls? Why would the president order a man like Kasparov to be jailed, drawing international media attention, if he isn’t even expected to capture a small percentage of the vote?

One theory put forward is that Putin wants much more than to just simply win the vote, but rather win it with a shocking overwhelming majority on such a scale that he could earn the alleged “political capital” and legitimacy for the rest of the world to overlook all of his broken rules, democratic dismantling, and unlawful manipulation. For this reason the government won’t tolerate even the smallest demonstrations, and are eager to show that if you publicly disagree with the president, you go to jail.

The question we all have to ask ourselves with respect to this dramatic overreaction to the opposition is what does Putin know about Russia’s future that we don’t? Whatever it is, I can’t imagine that it’s good news.


Russian Interior Ministry: March of Dissent participants paid

The agency Trend News reports that Russia’s Interior Ministry claims to have evidence showing some members of the March of Dissent were paid for protesting on the weekend. ”In Saint Petersburg three elderly women approached a group of our officers. They said the organisers promised to pay them 500 roubles for participating in the rally and 3,000 roubles if they take part in the clashes. However, they failed to keep their promise. So, these ladies asked us to find these “swindlers,” as they called them,” Aleksandr Chekalin from the Interior Ministry said. Russia’s Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov called the rally a provocation. The Interior Ministry suspects the rallies are being financed from abroad.

On Monday, the White House and the U.S. State Department expressed concern over the detentions. “The U.S. is concerned by reports of aggressive tactics used by Russian authorities against opposition protestors in Moscow and other cities. We are particularly concerned by the arrests and detentions of leaders of the opposition, including Garry Kasparov, and call for them to be given proper access to legal counsel and fair treatment in processing,” said Sean McCormack from the U.S. State Department.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called the Western reaction hypocritical. Peskov said that these statements sharply contrasted with Washington’s mild criticism when police used tear gas and truncheons to disperse an opposition rally in Georgia. The spokesman noted around half a thousand were hospitalised in Tbilisi – while in Russia the scenes were far less dramatic.


Karpov Barred From Seeing Kasparov

Former world chess champion Anatoly Karpov was turned away when he tried to visit and offer moral support to his old rival, Garry Kasparov, currently in detention for his role in an anti-Kremlin protest Saturday. Karpov tried to visit Kasparov on Tuesday, but he was turned back by police, said Kasparov's spokeswoman, Marina Litvinovich. "Karpov is a member of the Public Chamber and has the right to visit those detained," Litvinovich said. "All the same, they would not let him in.

"A person is in trouble. Of course I'm not indifferent to that," Karpov told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. "In Russia right now we have, what, four world chess champions? And, of course, the fate of any one of them is important to other chess players, both in Russia and abroad. Generally speaking, I don't share his political views, but that's something different," he said. "I didn't come here to support him politically."

Amnesty International added its voice Wednesday to others that have already condemned Kasparov's arrest. "Amnesty International considers [Kasparov] to be a prisoner of conscience and calls for his immediate release," the rights group said in a statement titled "Russian Federation: Systemic Repression on Eve of Elections."

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