The case of Michael Benyash

On the 9th of September 2018 took place all-Russian protest against raising the retirement age. In 80 cities across the country people went to the streets to express their disagreement with such government reform peacefully and without weapons. This reform would raise the age of retirement for men from 60 to 65 and for women from 55 to 60.

In different regions the authorities reacted to the event differently. In some regions it went quite peacefully, in others protesters were often unreasonably detained by force. But in Krasnodar region took place a number of occasions which showed that brutality of Krasnodar authorities has reached a new level.

A march against the increase of age in Krasnodar was appointed on the 9th of September 2018 at 14.00. As a meeting place was chosen a site of Aurora cinema on Krasnaya street. From the 5th of September 2018 has begun preventive detentions of activists who had previously participated in other protest actions. To the day of rally were detained 12 people, convicted and arrested for various periods of time. The obvious purpose of such actions was not to allow active people even to get to the place of protest actions. More about 90 people were detained during a rally, including those who were just walking down the street near the area where the march began. As a particular case was arrested a girl who was jogging near the cinema.

However, one case surpasses all others and shows an absolutely gross level of lawlessness and permissiveness allowed to the police by the authorities.

Who is Mr.Benyash?

Michael Benyash is a lawyer. He was in profession since 2006 as a human right activist, and his integrity and commitment to the law gave him credibility in a professional environment. On the 9th of September 2018 Michael was in Krasnodar and did not take a direct participation in rally. His purpose was to ensure legal protection for people who would be detained at protest. He suspected that he could be eliminated or detained in any way so that he did not carry out his professional obligations and represent the interests of administrative detainees in police departments and courts. So, Michael left an application at Prosecutor’s office and the Chamber of Advocates that he suspected that in relation to him were conducted quickly-search actions. Michael was moving from the building of Prosecutor’s office with his constituent Irina Barhatova to his car but eventually he did not even reach it.

Detainment and punishment

At the intersection of Lenina and Krasnaya streets appeared a red civilian car without any distinctive signs and parked next to Michael’s car. Two men in civilian clothes came out (later they turned out to be officers Yurchenko Dmitry Dmitrievich and Dolgov Egor Sergeevich) and pushed Michael and Irina in the car without any explanations.

When Michael was in car officers tried to take his phone, caused him damage and put in handcuffs, after which began to choke him. Michael was taken to the police station at 14.30. He was thrown out of the car on the pavement. Then he was moved to the fourth floor of the building there he was tortured and beaten. It lasted approximately until 22.30. Further on, the policemen tried to hide the fact of law violation and made identical reports, where they indicated that Michael had beaten himself and tapped on the car’s window. Later, on the parking place of the police department “he tried to escape by running and rudely refused legitimate demands to cease these actions”, though based on the content of their reports he was voluntarily going with officers to the department.

On the basis of these reports was made a record under part 1 of article 19.3 “disobeying the lawful order of a police officer”. Also was made another protocol on the crime provided by part 2 of article 20.2 of the administrative code — organizing a public event without filing notice in the manner prescribed by law. The basis for this Protocol officers found in this post from Michael’s account on the social media Facebook.

Michael found an opportunity to leave the statement of offence on the part of policemen expressed with violence at his address. Fettered lawyer was beaten, choked, they tried to squeeze his eyes.

Court

Beaten Michael (he had bruises and cuts on his face, the knee was injured, also later confirmed traumatic otitis) was brought to the Lenin district court. 7 lawyers offered their protection to Michael at court, but all of the major procedural requests (like calling the police who detained Michael’s witness Barhatova, the introduction to the materials of the case and viewing the video record of the detention of a lawyer, etc.) the judge Burenko rejected and Michael was appointed to the administrative arrest under article 19.3 for the period of 14 days, and 40 hours of mandatory work under article 20.2.

In this condition Michael was moved to Ust-Labinsk in Krasnodar region to serve an administrative arrest in a special receiver for administratively arrested people. During his imprisonment Michael’s hearing worsened, his left ear heard very little, his knee was also in bad condition. While walking he had a limp and could not fully rely on the right foot. Due to the conditions of detention and the fact that at nights it was cold, he additionally developed a disease (which later would be diagnosed by paramedics as pneumonia of the lungs).

Criminal case and preventive measure

On the 23rd of September at 23.30 Michael Benyash had to be released from the special receiver in Ust-Labinsk with the termination of administrative arrest. But people who came to meet him could not even see him.

Before the term of the administrative arrest had expired, at 17.20 the police arrived at detention center and literally stole Michael, placed him in vehicles and took him to the detention center. The basis for this action was the initiation of a criminal case under part 1 article 318 of the criminal code of Russian Federation “Application of violence not dangerous for life or health, or threat of use of violence against a representative of authorities or his relatives in connection with the performance of their official duties”. It turned out that after policemen found out that Michael left a statement of offence by the policemen, they also left a reply statement in which they indicated that a lawyer bit an officer Dolgov’s finger.

On the 25th of September 2018 at 11.00 at Leninsky district court was appointed the meeting about the preventive measure in respect of Michael. The meeting began approximately at 17.00. Not everyone was able to get into courtroom. It was 10 attorneys from the defense side. They sought to induce prosecution witnesses (victims), to make a video recording in the courtroom, to call the direct witness of the events (Irina Barhatova, etc.), but all the requests were denied. Benyash was provided to familiarize with more than 50 pages of case materials in 2 minutes.

At 17.30 the allowed legal duration of detention in custody had stopped, but until the end of the session Michael was a prisoner in cage. The judge refused to allow in court qualified doctors, the presence of those was provided by lawyers in order to establish the real status of every Michael’s complaint on health. Later she allowed to examine Michael only by the ambulance crew and they detected a bilateral pneumonia. Despite the diagnosis, judge Belyak decided to extend the period of detention in the detention center up to 72 hours, as requested by the prosecutor.

2 months in detention facility

On the 28th of September 2018 at 11.00 was appointed a new meeting about the preventive measure with the same judge Diana Belyak. The investigator insisted on a period of 2 months in custody. The judge Belyak began a meeting with a decision to attach to the case a very suspicious help from the detention center that Benyash’s state of help allows him to be detained, though it was not accompanied by any medical documentation.

Diana Belyak once again rejected numerous requests to add video records of the arrest of Michael Benyash, to challenge a judge due to a bias, an offer to make a pledge for Benyash in amount of 100 thousand roubles, etc. The judge did not take into consideration that the measure of restraint, asked by investigator, can only be imposed in exceptional cases when there is a reason to believe that the accused may try to escape, destroy evidence or influence witnesses. Evidences of such possible behavior on the part of Benyash were not provided. The judge also ignored the fact that 2-months old son of Michael would be left without care because Michael’s wife was on surgery. Lawyers’ request to take a house arrest as a measure of restraint because of health conditions was also ignored.

Eventually, the judge decided to satisfy the petition of the investigator in full and send Michael Benyash in a detention facility for a period of 2 months.

How to help

As a part of our public campaign in support of an illegally arrested Michael Benyash and his family we are holding a fundraiser to financially support his wife and infant, to bring food and essentials to our friend in a detention center and to carry out an information campaign highlighting the story of Michael.

You can transfer funds in any way:

Page on yasobe.ru: yasobe.ru/na/benyash
Page on Yandex.money: 410016489171018. 
WMZ: Z532900115416. 
WMR: R692573679777. 
Paypal: paypal.me/helpbenyash

Support Michael and his family.