On June 8, Vladimir Oktyabrsky district court started hearing a lawsuit filed by convicted politician Aleksei Navalny against the local penal colony #3 where he was hospitalized after a long hunger strike. The opposition activist demanded recognition of the actions of prison staff as unlawful: they allegedly did not allow his lawyers to bring his cell phones and laptops needed for his work to meetings with him.
The case was heard in the absence of Navalny – the oppositionist did not want to participate in the meeting via video link. His interests were represented by lawyer Vadim Kobzev who said that defenders visited the convicted politician in prison colony-3 more than ten times between April 19 and May 11. Each time applications were submitted to the head of the colony, which included a request to allow the passage of phones and laptops – referring to the relevant decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation:
“Since 2018, attorneys across the country, when visiting their clients who are serving their sentences, have always carried cell phones, audio and video equipment and so on if they wish, as stated in the Supreme Court’s decision. This clause applies only to lawyers, it does not apply to relatives or the investigator…”.
Kobzev added that the lawyers did not know what resolutions were put on their applications by the head of the penal colony #3 Alexander Rybakov, because they were not given the paper back or shown it to them. As it turned out at the court hearing, permits to bring a phone or a laptop into the restricted area were issued. But they still had to leave the equipment at the checkpoint at the entrance to the institution.
“Each time an employee told us that it was impossible to bring cell phones into the territory. To all our objections to the fact that there is a decision of the Supreme Court, he also did not respond in any way. Each time it ended in the same way, we were told that either we hand over our phones and laptops and we are given a date, or we do not hand them over and then we do not get into the restricted area, respectively, we will not see the client.
Representatives of the defendant gave the court their version – the sentry at the checkpoint of the penitentiary did not demand to deposit the gadgets, but only offered to do it. And the lawyers surrendered them voluntarily.
Vadim Kobzev interceded to watch the video footage made at the entrance to the checkpoint on those days when Alexei Navalny was visited by his defenders. However, it turned out that some of the clips had already been destroyed – those that were made before 27 April.
According to the representative of the defendant, the video archive is stored for one month, after which the recordings are automatically erased. In addition, it proved impossible to provide video for May 7:
“When testing the hard drive systems on May 15, many of the files were corrupted.”
During the session, video recordings of Navalny’s defenders passing through the checkpoint to the restricted area from 27 April to 11 May were shown. There were no arguments between the lawyers and the staff on them, but Vadim Kobzev drew the judge’s attention to some dialogues:
“There was a question ‘Should I give up the phone?” – “Yes, of course” and “Surrender the phone?” – “Yes, definitely.” I want to point out that Navalny was in prison No. 3, and the most “scandals” about the phones took place on April 20 and 26. When these “scandals” ended with absolutely nothing, that is, we were not able to get the phones, then, accordingly, it did not make any practical sense to hold any more “concerts” each time.
It should be added that representatives of correctional facility #3 also said they considered the convicted politician as an inappropriate plaintiff, because his rights had not been violated. In response, lawyer Kobzev claimed that it was Navalny who suffered from the actions of the colony’s staff because the defence lawyers needed the devices to provide him with qualified legal assistance.
Vadim Kobzev asked for the opportunity to clarify the requirements of the claim, as the prohibition for the lawyers to bring phones and laptops was in force on other dates of the visit, up to the transfer of the oppositionist from the Vladimir penal colony No. 3 to the Pokrovsk penal colony No. 2. If a new lawsuit is filed, the video recordings made at the checkpoint in the colony will again be erased after one month.
Judge Anna Veselova announced a break so that Alexei Navalny and his lawyers could review the documents and materials submitted by the defendant. The next hearing in the case will be held on June 10.
On the previous day, Alexei Navalny’s lawsuit against the Pokrovsky penal colony No. 2 was considered in connection with censorship. Alexei Navalny dropped his claims, saying that together with his lawyers he had already secured his rights in this regard.