A state-appointed defender in the terrorist financing case discovered that an investigator from the Sakhalin FSB had falsified the suspect’s testimony.
The Chekists tried to make an Uzbek tractor driver, who does not speak Russian well, write a confession for him as a sponsor of religious radicals. The refusal to sign the dubious protocol and the attempt to introduce into it the remarks stipulated by the law turned first into physical resistance of the secret service officer, and then into the criminal prosecution of the lawyer.
Lawyer Alexander Kuleshov applied to the PASMI column “Report Corruption”. Employees of the Sakhalin FSB accused him of obstructing an objective investigation of the case of complicity in terrorism. The interlocutor of the editorial office is sure that the Chekists themselves earn a reputation by stamping cases of crimes against public safety, and defenders who dare to point out violations are removed from these cases.
Alexander Kuleshov was involved in the case under the high-profile Article 205 of the Criminal Code “Financing of Terrorism” as a lawyer by appointment in 2020. Before that, he had never seen his principal and was not familiar with the case materials. The investigation was carried out by the Department of the FSB of Russia for the Sakhalin Region. According to the Chekists, the defendant, Ilhomjon Komilov, born in 1985, made three money transfers totaling over 20,000 rubles in late 2018 in favor of one of the international terrorist organizations.
As Kuleshov explained to the editors, the first and last investigative event with his participation took place on January 24, 2020. When he personally met the person involved in the terrorism case, he found out that he was a citizen of Uzbekistan, a bulldozer operator by profession. The defendant also told the lawyer that he was allegedly beaten off by the kidneys during the investigation, demanding to confess.
“During the conversation, the client said that a classmate had asked him to transfer money. He said that their common classmate went to work in Turkey, but she did not work out abroad, she fell ill, and there was no money left for the return trip. And the class chipped in for her support. The money was asked to be transferred to the indicated phone number,” Kuleshov said about his conversation with the “terrorist”.
The principal informed the lawyer that he had previously given similar explanations to Major Igor Erdniev, senior investigator of the regional FSB department. Moreover, the classmate who asked for the transfer of money confirmed the version of the tractor driver. However, in the protocol of interrogation, which the defendant had to sign in the presence of the invited state defender, it was indicated that Komilov allegedly confessed to helping terrorism, and all his explanations given earlier were ignored.
Having learned about such fundamental contradictions, Kuleshov demanded to acquaint him with the materials of the criminal case, but the investigator refused, asking the lawyer to sign the protocol with the testimony of the accused without further questions. After that, a conflict began between the lawyer and the FSB officer.
“I refused to certify the so-called protocol, but in fact – a filkin’s letter written by the investigator – and began to write objections in the corresponding section of the protocol. Seeing this, the investigator began to snatch the document from my hands so that I would not have time to write anything superfluous. As a result, the sheets were torn into three parts, ”said the PASMI interlocutor.
The lawyer added that he tried to film the circumstances of the incident on the phone – a torn protocol, as well as the situation of all the people who were in the room at that moment. But he managed to take only one photo, since Erdniev allegedly hit him on the hands, the phone fell to the floor and broke.
After these events, Kuleshov told the investigator that he would require an investigation into the facts of obstruction of the defense and the use of violence against the lawyer.
However, Erdniev went on the attack first. As soon as the lawyer left the building of the Federal Security Service, he wrote a report addressed to the head of the Sakhalin FSB Andrei Pototsky.
The statement stated that Kuleshov had allegedly managed to make comments in the protocol of interrogation, and then “in order to prevent a comprehensive objective investigation” tore up the document. At the same time, in the destroyed protocol, as Erdniev pointed out, Ilhomjon Komilov “gave complete and exhaustive evidence regarding the circumstances of the crime he committed.”
From the FSB, a report on jurisdiction was transferred to the Investigation Department of the TFR for the Sakhalin Region. And on the same day, January 24, 2020, a check began against the defense lawyer on the fact of the possible elements of a crime in his actions under Art. 294 of the Criminal Code – “Obstruction of the production of a preliminary investigation.” Kuleshov himself was removed from the case of the Uzbek tractor driver.
According to the lawyer, such a quick reaction through the ICR was not accidental – before becoming an FSB investigator, Igor Erdniev worked in the department of Alexander Bastrykin and, most likely, retained connections there.
“For Erdniev, the Komilov case was the first in the position of an FSB investigator, and, probably, he really wanted to curry favor and not lose face. Before me, there were three more lawyers in the case, and Erdniev also removed all of them from proceedings. The rulings stated – “due to contradictions in the positions in the case.” Although there could be no contradictions, since Komilov had not yet testified at that time. And this whole situation is more like getting rid of defenders who are inconvenient for the prosecution, ”said the PASMI interlocutor.
The check of the regional investigative department of the TFR ended with the initiation of criminal proceedings against Alexander Kuleshov. According to the position of the prosecution, the record of the interrogation was material evidence, and the lawyer deliberately destroyed it.
And Kuleshov was denied the initiation of a criminal case against Erdniev: the Sakhalin Department of the ICR responded to his statement that no corpus delicti had been found in the actions of the FSB investigator.
Brotherhood of Lawyers
In May 2021, the case of Alexander Kuleshov was sent to the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk City Court, where colleagues from the region and the capital en masse stood up to defend the Sakhalin lawyer.
“Support was provided by the entire bar association of the region – I was defended in court by a total of 11 colleagues. Also, huge support – in the form of methodological assistance and preparation of procedural documents – was provided by the Moscow Inter-Republican Bar Association, ”Kuleshov noted.
The position of the defense was that there was no crime in principle. The sheet of paper with the printed text was formally a draft, not a document, since it did not have the necessary signatures. An electronic copy of the same protocol was kept on the investigator’s computer and could be printed and signed at any time. In addition, any crime involves intent, but it is extremely difficult to find intent in the actions of a free lawyer who saw his client and the FSB investigator for the first time in his life.
But the main thing on which the defense was based, Kuleshov did not spoil the draft, since the paper was torn when the FSB investigator tore it out of the hands of the lawyer, not wanting him to write about violations.
“For the entire period of the trial, convincing evidence of the “crime” was never found. There were three witnesses: Erdniev claims that I tore the paper, I have the opposite opinion, and Komilov stated that he did not notice who tore the protocol, but saw how the investigator knocked the phone out of my hands. But if I tore up the document, why should I remove evidence of this?” Alexander Kuleshov drew attention.
According to the lawyer, judge Irina Drango in the process took the position of regional subordinates of Alexander Bastrykin and the case is being conducted with an accusatory bias. In December 2021, Kuleshov was even placed under house arrest, which is an exceptional measure given the low gravity of the charge against him.
“For starters, I was handed a recognizance not to leave, but I refused to sign it – by virtue of contracts concluded with people, I am forced to travel to other cities of the Sakhalin Region and, according to the law “On Advocacy,” I could not refuse my obligations to protect. However, Judge Drango ignored these circumstances, and based on my trips to other courts before the New Year holidays, she ruled on house arrest with the deprivation of communications for the maximum possible period of two months, ”Kuleshov said.
In January 2022, he challenged the decision of Judge Irina Drango in an appeal. However, the Sakhalin Regional Court did not cancel the house arrest, but simply softened the regime, allowing the use of the telephone, the Internet and other means of communication. The defense party intends to appeal the appellate ruling in cassation after it receives the court’s decision in its hands.