Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Russia: Too much politics in controversial murder case

Dmitry Lyskov

The case of Rasul Mirzayev, which was initially politicized in Russia, became even more politicized after the case was closed. On November 26th, the Zamoskvoretsky court of Moscow found the world sambo champion guilty of manslaughter by negligence and sentenced the athlete to two years in prison. As long as the defendant had spent eighteen months in jail by the moment of the verdict, he was released right in the courtroom. Under the law, one day of stay in custody counts as two days.

Read article: Wrestler kills student in fight over toy car

The verdict caused a powerful outburst of emotions with obvious political overtones in the blogosphere. "A slap in the face of justice and especially in the face of all Russian people. This is humiliating towards our national dignity," one of the leaders of the association "The Russians," Aleksandr Belov (Potkin) said.

"Releasing killer Mirzayev is like spitting in the face of the entire Russian people. Harassment and the powerless position of Russians in Russia does not raise any doubts with anyone now. With this judgment, the authorities confirms the exclusive rights of people from the Caucasus to commit unlawful acts against the Russians," a nationalist blogger wrote.

However, examples of similar cases in Russia do not score many points to nationalists. For example, boxer Roman Romanchuk, who killed an offender in Vladivostok in 2008, was sentenced to 18 months in a penal colony. As a result of the appeal, his sentence was reduced to a 14 months.

Read article: Russian boxer jailed for defending himself against armed attacker

Here is another case that repeats the case of Rasul Mirzayev. In May 2011, in the town of Zlatoust, the Chelyabinsk region, a candidate of master of boxing, Alexander Budykin, hit a 32-year old man on the head in response to an insult. The victim fell, hit the pavement and five days later died at hospital from a brain injury. The court found Budykin guilty of causing death by negligence and sentenced him to 16 months in jail.

The case of Rasul Mirzayev was developing differently. The athlete came to police himself, and the court initially agreed to release him on bail of 100,000 rubles ($3,000). However, this decision was appealed and subsequently canceled by the Moscow City Court. Mirzayev was taken into custody.

The case of the wrestler was repeatedly requalified from "Intentional infliction of serious bodily injury that resulted in death" to "Causing death by negligence" and then back. The court decided to release Mirzayev on bail several times, but prosecutors challenged the decision during every attempt.

The primary motive of the tough actions of the trial was the widespread publicity of the case, journalists wrote. "The decision of the Zamoskvoretsky court of Moscow to release world champion in mixed martial arts Rasul Mirzayev on bail was revoked not only because of procedural irregularities, but also for reasons of public safety, - many articles published in August of 2011 said. - Security officials believe that the "Mirzayev's release would lead to a sharp deterioration of the general state of affairs in Moscow."

"Special services have information saying that nationalist movements will try to use the incident with Mirzayev as an excuse to organize new riots in Moscow, similar to those that took place in December last year on Manezhnaya Square (the riots occurred after the authorities released a defendant on the case of the murder of Yegor Sviridov, a fan of Spartak)."

The participation of Dagestani politicians in the case of Rasul Mirzayev only added fuel to the fire of controversy surrounding this case.

Against such a background, nationalists' remarks of the verdict as "national humiliation that confirms exclusive rights of the people from the Caucasus to commit illegal actions against Russians," look at least absurd. Mirzayev has been de facto punished more severely than the figures of similar cases.