MINELRES: SOVA: Symbolic convictions in high-profile skinhead gang cases in St. Petersburg

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Tue Dec 27 15:10:31 2005

Original sender: SOVA <mail@sova-center.ru>

December: Symbolic convictions in St. Petersburg

The end of 2005 was marked by two convictions in high-profile skinhead
gang cases in St. Petersburg. Following the murder, in 2004, of Nikolai
Girenko - an academic known for his opposition to neo-Nazi - and threats
against Governor Valentina Matviyenko, the city's law enforcement voiced
their commitment to investigate crimes by neo-Nazi skinhead gangs.

So on 14 December 2005, members of Mad Crowd gang were sentenced to
terms between one and three years (however, not in prison camps, but in
settlement colonies, which means more liberal conditions). One of them
who was under legal age at the time of the offences received a
probational sentence. All were convicted under art.282 part 2 of the
Criminal Code for incitation of hatred combined with violence or threats
of violence. Indeed, their offences included both violent attacks and
hate speech.

A week before, on 9 December, members of Schultz-88 group were convicted
and sentenced (in fact, Mad Crowd is its spin-off). The leader of
Schultz-88 was sentenced to six years of prison, three members of the
gang were sentenced each to three years' probation, and one skinhead was
acquitted. They were sentenced under the same paragraph of art. 282 and
under the article on 'hooliganism' defined in the Russian Criminal Code
as assault involving weapons or objects used as weapons. The leader was
also found guilty under art.282-1 of the Criminal Code punishing for the
organization of 'extremist community' (it was the second conviction
under this article since its adoption more than three years ago).

Compared to investigative and judicial practices of previous years, the
convictions should apparently make us all happy.  But they do not.  

The investigation of Schultz-88 case was launched in November 2003, and
the case of Mad Crowd was opened in end-2004, the offences were
committed in 2002-2003, and the trials, as we can see, ended only
recently. The investigators and the court took their time; as a result,
the statute of limitations had expired under part 1, art. 282
('propaganda of hatred' per se) and part two art. 282-1 ('participation
in an extremist community').

Charges against members of both groups included, in addition to hate
speech ('propaganda') combined with threats of violence, a number of
violent assaults with dire consequences for the victims. However, the
sentences lacked any mention of bodily injuries. What does it mean?
Either the defendants were not guilty of the assaults originally
described by the prosecutor, or, more likely, prosecution failed to
prove most of the episodes.

Probational sentences, in particular, cause resentment and concern, as
we know from numerous examples that they have never served to intimidate
skinheads or to discourage them from crimes.

SOVA Center for Information and Analysis, December 23,

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