On April 8, the judge of the Presnensky Court of Moscow, Evgeny Naidenov, extended the detention period of mathematics teacher Dmitry Bogatov for another 72 hours. On April 7, the same judge had released him on his own recognizance granted that he did not travel. The teacher was suspected of inciting mass riots. However, on the night of April 7-8, the Investigative Committee presented him with two more serious charges: “calling for terrorist activities or justifying the use of terrorism via the Internet” and “organizing riots”. A new hearing for his arrest will be held on April 10. Meduza explains how one night changed the entire picture.
On April 1, Russia’s Investigation Committee initiated a case on incitement of mass riots on the basis on online messages “calling for extreme actions” posted on March 29. Apparently, the messages were about a protest that had anonymously been announced for April 2 in Moscow. On April 6, the Investigation Committee detained the first suspect in the case without giving his name. According to investigators, “the suspect posted materials calling for riots in the center of Moscow with the help of special software designed to hide traces of his Internet presence, [namely] using servers based in [foreign states].”
On April 7, it became known that the suspect was a twenty-five-year-old mathematics lecturer at Moscow’s Finance and Law University Dmitry Bogatov. The same day, Moscow’s Presnensky Court judge Evgeny Naidenov rejected the Committee’s plea to take the preventative measure of detaining Bogatov. The judge agreed with the arguments of Bogatov’s lawyer Alexei Teptsov, who pointed to the fine print in Article 212 of Russia’s criminal code – the precise article that Bogatov was being tried for – establishing that offenders, who could be sentenced to up to two years in prison, should not be detained as a preventive measure.
Before making his decision, the judge asked investigator Rakilov to clarify the what charges were being brought against the accused. Rakilov said that no charges had been made as of that point, as the investigation was still underway, adding, however, that though the case had been initiated under Article 212.3, “if anything,” the investigators would file more as necessary.
The court released Bogatov on his own recognizance not to travel, but he was still taken out of the hall in handcuffs. Bogatov’s lawyer and relatives were sure that he would be released under a written undertaking not to leave the city within just a few hours. He was put in an isolation unit where he was to sign the necessary release documents. However, as his lawyer Aleksei Teptsov said in an interview with Meduza on April 8, became known that late in the evening it Bogatov had been taken away for interrogation at the Investigative Committee yet again. According to Teptsov, Bogatov was now also being investigated under Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code on ‘incitement of terrorist activities or justifying terrorism via the Internet.’ Furthermore, Bogatov’s charge on mass riots was changed, as well. “That is, Dmitry is not suspected of disseminating any information or appealing for mass riots, but of organizing mass riots,” explained his lawyer. “Investigative actions were carried out until half past five in the morning,” said the lawyer. During this period, the suspect had been interrogated and accused, formal charges were brought against him, and he was detained.
According to the lawyer, the basis of the new criminal case was the full text of the same article whose fragments were quoted by the investigator in the courtroom one day earlier. “I do not understand why it was presented in the form of a one [accusation] until yesterday and now there are signs of a different [accusation]. Apparently, investigators looked at the situation in a new way,” said Teptsov.
Teptsov also suggested that investigators were somehow withholding from the defense team. “Investigative teams should have very good reasons to change articles [under which people are accused], initiate new criminal cases, and reclassify Dmitry’s actions in a matter of a couple of days. All the while, his involvement in posting [anything about mass protests] has in no way been confirmed,” he said. On the evening of April 7, the lawyer claimed that his client had nothing to do with posting the incendiary messages, especially as they had been posted on someone else’s account under from different IP-addresses.
Dmitry Bogatov’s mother Margarita Bogatova told Meduza that she has a documentary evidence of her son’s innocence – surveillance footage showing Bogatov food shopping with his wife at the time of the incidence he is being accused off. Bogatova said that her son is a “very law-abiding person” and will not even cross the street unless there was a crosswalk.
“Nothing about him is illegal. He would not even hurt a cat, what incitement of mass riots could there possibly have been?! He and his wife – a genetic biologist – have [been vegan] for several years. They play chess; they learned Esperanto in three months and were supposed to go to the international meeting,” Bogatova told Meduza. According to her, her son did not participate (and did not intend to participate) in any protests: “He is an educated person” who spends his time reading news, but watches politics from the side lines and does not participate in politics or speak about it publicly, she said.
On April 8, the court prolonged Bogatov’s detention for 72 hours. His defense ask Judge Naydenov even before the investigator’s motion to postpone the meeting in order to collect additional documents and evidence. “The investigator’s petition was not examined [based on the evidence that was available],” Teptsov specified. Bogatov’s hearing on “a preventive measure” is scheduled for April 10.