On Friday, September 10, a Moscow court sentenced prominent Pussy Riot activist Maria Alyokhina to one year of “restrictions on freedom” (a parole-like sentence). As part of the “Sanitary Case,” the court found her guilty of inciting violations of pandemic-related restrictions and, consequently, creating the threat of a mass coronavirus outbreak. State prosecutors sought two years of restricted freedom for Alyokhina, who has been shuffled from house arrest to pre-trial detention since the launch of the “Sanitary Case” in late January. Meduza shares a full English-language translation of Maria Alyokhina’s final courtroom remarks here.
The Sanitary Case is my second criminal case in my life. Almost 10 years have passed. A felony for politics has ceased to be shock content and become part of the morning news. Back then it was a scandal — three girls in a cage for a song opposing Putin — now these three girls are every resident of Russia.
Back then the courts were open — now we’re sentenced behind closed doors: the government has fenced [them] off with a wall in order to continue this performance, which it’s ashamed to show an audience. Why do you need to close the courts? Because just repression is not enough, it’s not enough to lock [someone] up, you need to lock [them] up in such a way that no one talks about it. The eeriest things are the things that happen in silence.
My first conviction [sent] the message “don’t you dare touch the state ideology.” My second conviction — “don’t you dare discuss what we’re doing at all.”
The uncertainty of those who make these accusations is based on the fact that they aren’t making them on behalf of the people. People aren’t as stupid as it might seem from the height of [official] posts and shoulder straps. People understand who is persecuted and who is the persecutor. Who stands for ideals and who is simply doing a service. So people just need to be deprived of the opportunity to see.
Walls are built by one who is afraid, one who is doubly afraid forbids discussing it. We’re all taught to be afraid. “Do you see the cage? If you misbehave, you’ll find yourself in it.” But a cage made from fear is worse than a cage made of glass and iron, I know this because I was in the latter.
I’m not afraid. I know I’m innocent. But I don’t know which is the greater restriction on freedom — an electronic bracelet or Putin’s decree on an appointment to the post of judge. You’ll handle as many political cases as they tell you, you’ll write papers, calling them decisions, knowing that you decided nothing in them — and all of this to keep the chair in which you sit. You said that slavery was abolished more than a centuary ago, but then who are you? You follow the [prison] camp formula: “you die today, I’ll die tomorrow.” I’d rather do wrong now, but stay in office — let someone else get hurt. Better someone else than me.
You say to us: “Nothing depends on us,” though everything depends on you, as well as on us.
In my first case, there was discussion about whether a political statement is a crime or not. Now there’s no discussion. Everyone knows that anyone can be put in jail. Only no one knows how to stop it. In fact, it’s simple. You need to forget the phrase “nothing depends on me” and take responsibility. In principle, this is freedom, if, of course, someone here needs it.
It’s up to each person to decide for themselves whether to stay in the camp and live according to the camp principles or to leave it. I made my choice. Now it’s your turn.