“Without worldwide publicity, Mokhnatkin will sit in prison forever”
On March 20, a 63-year-old activist, Sergei Mokhnatkin, who was convicted of allegedly using violence against a government representative, received an added sentence – two more years in prison. This time the sentence was for “disorganization of the colony’s work.” After the sentence was leveled, Mokhnatkin, an older man with health problems, announced a hunger strike in protest. What is happening? When will Mokhnatkin be released? How can his release be secured? We chatted with Masha Ryabikova about this – she is a Moscow civil activist who personally knows Mokhnatkin and who has repeatedly taken action in his defense.
Masha Ryabikova’s picket in front of the General Prosecutor’s Office in Moscow. Photo
- Masha, what’s going on with Mokhnatkin?
- He was sentenced to two more years in prison. After the addition of terms, which follow each other, he received another four additional months to those he has to sit through. Accordingly, he will remain in prison for another 2.5 years in total.
By the way, he already had 11 months added to his sentence for “insulting.” That is, this is the second time since he has been in the colony that his sentence has been prolonged.
These constant conflicts are happening because Sergei is not the kind of person who will put up with kinds of violations and injustice. And in the colony these are constantly occurring.
And this is frightening because he is already old – and is imprisoned for a second time. Both times he was convicted for intervening on behalf of the detainees in “Strategy 31” (a protest series in support of the right to peacefully assemble – Trans.). This second time after his detention, a huge colonel literally started choking him, and he tried to free himself…
In general, Mokhnatkin had already cut his teeth long ago. He was a public defender of the convicts in the “Bolotnaya case,” and defended Sergei Krivov. He is a very bright and active person…
- You personally know Mokhnatkin?
- We participated in May 6th Committee meetings together. Sergei is surprisingly energetic, always full of ideas and plans. Very excitable in arguments, heated. Though I myself never argued with him – there wasn’t anything to… And he, who’d already served time himself, took the prisoners’ fate close to heart, and helped them. Even after being arrested a second time, he was keenly interested in the fate of the “Bolotniks,” bursting to defend Krivov while in custody. He wrote many complaints, fought – he was really indefatigable.
- That is, obviously, he was “annoyed”?
- Yes. And for those like him, the colony is simply “contraindicated.” Such people are not endured there, and therefore I’m afraid that he will be imprisoned forever.
Although this colony doesn’t concern itself with “torture” (IK-5 of Arkhangelsk Oblast – Ed.), Mokhnatkin was beaten there and a vertebrae broken. He began to complain, protest. The judge, according to the lawyers, even wanted to bring forth a case against the colony employees after watching the video in which it is clear that Mokhnatkin didn’t beat anyone, rather he was beaten. But the prosecutor opposed this so strongly that the judge gave in. And, in fact, the colony “saved” and shielded itself for this new case and sentence for Mokhnatkin.
- They turned defense into an attack?
- Yes, this is a common situation in colonies – criminal cases are launched against complainants.
If Mokhnatkin’s sentence is prolonged every time, it is not clear where he will be sent and who will be with him. He is already not so young, and in poor health, and at the same time a warrior by nature.
- He announced a hunger strike, after all?
- Yes. This could also impact his health. By the way, two activists went to court for the verdict as a support group. And they say that Sergei already felt poorly at the time, he looked below par, and leaned against the wall.
- I know that you took actions in his support…
- Yes, we picketed at the General Prosecutor’s Office and the Federal Penitentiary Service.
In the General Prosecutor’s Office, they really don’t like it, when someone is standing nearby. The prosecutor even approached us and asked us to write. Well we, naturally, wrote everywhere – both to the prosecutor and to the Federal Penitentiary Service. It is clear that these writings don’t carry any legal weight, but let them see that Mokhnatkin has a kind of support, that there will be many statements in his defense…
Not much in the way of international publicity has come about – after all, his article is not political. Ildar Dadin had a political article (violation of the rules for holding meetings – Ed.), and Mokhnatkin does not. Moreover, there were many complaints of torture in the colony where Dadin was, and not just from Dadin and his colleagues, but also from other prisoners. And thanks to this, it was possible to gain huge international traction. Unfortunately, in the case of Mokhnatkin, this is more difficult…
- The release of Ildar Dadin was achieved. What will help Mokhnatkin, in your view?
- The attention of the international community. For this, more publications in the media are necessary. And it is tricky to interest them in this, now. Journalists need a hook. The same pickets with the same themes do not draw attention, interest falls. For it to be newsworthy, there needs to be an arrest. And detention is now too “expensive,” there are big fines… You can “earn” a million of these fines and do not “attract” them for the sake of publicity.
Before, we went to Red Square in someone’s defense, and held loud actions. And now, alas, it is an entirely different situation – and we cannot afford it. And it is unclear how to now draw attention to these cases.
But I think that the task of the media is not just to passively follow the interests of the public, but also to guide these interests. Here, you are now writing – and thank you. If you and others will write about this, then people will become interested, they will read, there will be outcry, reposts, discussions… and in the end, the global community will respond.
Translated by Lilya Morevna. The Russian Version is here