FSB provocation against YABLOKO’s Maxim Petlin
Press Release, February 25, 2011
A district court in Yekaterinburg decided to release the leader of the Sverdlovsk branch of YABLOKO Maxim Petlin under the bail of deputies of the regional parliament and the city parliament. The state prosecutor demanded to apply such preventive measure as imprisonment of Petlin before the trial.
Chairman of the YABLOKO party Sergei Mitrokhin also sent his letter to the court so that Petlin could be released under bail, but the judge refused the motion stating that the letter was sent by fax.
Maxim Petlin, leader of YABLOKO’s branch in the Sverdlovsk region was arrested on February 22 on suspicion of gouging 3 million rubles out of construction company the Forum Group.
The construction company had planned to build a shopping center on the territory of a public garden in Yekaterinburg. The Mayor’s office gave a permit to cut down over 1,100 trees in the garden, however, local residents and Maxim Petlin opposed this decision and even stopped cutting of the trees. After that representatives of the developer offered to sign an agreement with the residents promising to stop cutting and launch a public discussion of the project. Maxim Petlin, in his turn, undertook to suspend all public actions during the negotiations.
The agreement was signed on February 22, and Petlin had to give to the developer the copies of his complaints to the prosecutor.
Andrei Panteleyev, Petlin’s ex-assistant and activist of the initiative group brought the documents to the office so that to hand them to the developer. The representative of the developer, in his turn, handed Panteleyev package saying that it contained documents for the deputy of the Sverdlovsk Duma Mr. Petlin. When the package was in the hands of Panteleyev, FSB (Federal Security Service, the former KGB) entered and detained him saying that the package contained money allegedly given to Petlin as a bribe. The package was opened and it really contained money marked by special powder.
After this Panteleyev had an asthmatic attack and was taken to hospital. However, the investigators ordered to take him to the interrogation in handcuffs right out of the hospital ward. “The investigators lacked the evidence and they decided to “take them out” of a person who was in a very bad physical condition,” said Sergei Mitrokhin.
However, today the Regional Prosecutor’s Office announced the results of its audit of the Forum Group held at Petlin’s request. The verdict stated that cutting of the garden was illegal. Public Prosecutor of Ekaterinburg has already appealed to the district court to so that to recognize the decision by the Head of Yekaterinburg Administration void.
However, Petlin’s flat was searched and his computer and documents referring to the Forum Group were confiscated by the FSB.
Maxim Petlin speaking in the court pleaded not guilty. “I think this is a political provocation by the Forum Group. I am very interested in a thorough investigation of this case and so that all the charges could be taken from me. I’m not going to hide and do not intend to exert pressure on the investigation and trial. I did not threaten and do not intend to threaten members of the Forum Group. I have no authority to exert pressure on the investigators. I have a social and political experience. People know me well, and I value their trust… My honor is dearer to me,” he told the reporters.
Mitrokhin called this case “a FSB provocation” and accused FSB in corruption.
“Maxim Petlin would never make such a suicidal step for a politician, moreover a politician from the opposition. We are stating that absolutely any citizen can be arrested on the same pretext. We are stating that such an action against Petlin means an attack against Sverdlovsk YABLOKO – the main oppositional force in the region which has been in tough confrontation with the authorities,” runs YABLOKO’s statement.
Regional elections will take place in Yelaterinburg in March. YABLOKO’s candidate Irina Skachkova was withdrawn from the race under a pretext of “fraudulent signatures” in favour of the candidate. The court declined her suit despite of the face the eleven witnesses confirmed their disputed signatures in court.
The present action against Petlin continues the line of reprisals set by the authorities against YABLOKO’s activists.