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Feature Story October 17, 2002
 
I Fought The Law: Edward Limonov on Trial
By Mark Ames Browse author Email
 
Page 2 of 5
 
After the morning session ended, everyone in the hallways was herded and forced to stand halfway up the stairwell against the wall, about 50 meters from the defendants, while the guards led them away. There must have been some 15 to 20 police and camouflaged paramilitary goons guarding Limonov and the defendants. The same security routine was repeated on their way back into the courtroom after lunch.
See if you can spot the new name for Limonka after the authorities banned it

See if you can spot the new name for Limonka after the authorities banned it

Watching a Russian trial can be unsettling. The defendant, whether a young female poet like Alina Vitukhnovskaya or a pension-aged radical writer like Limonov, is always obliged to sit in a grim cage, whose bars are generally painted green-gray, police standing on either side. The defendant's cage was introduced into the courts during Gorbachev's time after Soviet prosecutors were impressed with the use of the cage during Italy's crackdown on the Mafia. How any defendant could possibly be judged impartially or appear potentially innocent if he's already sitting in a cage, and a judge is used to seeing him in that cage, is beyond me. But that's how it is.

The presiding judge, Vladimir Matrosov, was an impressive figure, not just because he's got one of those dignified trim beards, but also because of his quick thinking and sardonic wit during the cross-examination. He also has one of the worst facial twitches I've ever seen. At first I thought it was an affectation, or that he was trying to cut a comical figure like Inspector Clouseau's fatally-annoyed chief. Then I realized that the right corner of Mironov's mouth jerked nearly to his ear at regular five second intervals, as quick as a frog's tongue snapping at a fly. The twitch never stopped.

Mironov had overruled the FSB's attempt to close the trial to the public and media. However, he banned all cameras and interviews during trial proceedings. Still, the Russian media had managed to both film and interview Limonov in his cage. But they've lost interest in the trial. There were fewer than ten people in the public seats at the trial, most of whom were Limonov sympathizers like acting National-Bolshevik leader Anatoly Tishin. There was only one local journalist.

I was told I could film with my video camera, but everyone told me something different about when and how I could use it. So just before Mironov took the bench I reached for my bag and took out the camera, at the prodding of both a friendly National-Bolshevik and Duma deputy and former Vladivostok mayor Viktor Cherepkov (who is serving as a special counsel to Limonov). A cop and one of the camouflaged paramilitary thugs yelled at me to put the camera back. Cherepkov yelled back that he was a Duma deputy, that he would raise the matter in the Duma and with Attorney General Ustinov, and insisted that I pull the camera out and film. I was nervous, mostly for the camera, but I pulled it out anyway. Suddenly three goons were on me faster than one of Mironov's facial twitches. One of the paramilitary goons looked exactly like Putin, only bigger and balder. Another had his baton out. They prepared to seize me and drag me off, god knows where. There was an uproar.

"Da ladno, ne nada," I said. "I'll put the camera back. There's no need to take me away."

To my surprise, they backed off when I put the camera in the bag.

Only after the session was over, at around 6 in the evening, was I able to briefly film Limonov. When I tried to ask him in English how he felt, a cop grabbed me and made me leave, telling me I wasn't allowed to speak to him. Limonov smiled at me. That, and a beaming wave hello when he first saw me, was all the contact I had with Limonov.


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Ames
Browse author
Email Mark Ames at editor@exile.ru.
 
 
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