Personal experience: how I survived a search as a witness in a "political" case

Personal experience: how I survived a search as a witness in a "political" case
Personal experience: how I survived a search as a witness in a "political" case
8 October 2020, 11:37Politics
A member of the human rights movement Golos described in detail the humiliating and completely illegal search procedure at his house - the same procedure that led to the death of journalist Irina Slavina in Nizhny Novgorod.

Civil activist Azat Gabdulvaleyev from Kazan shared on his blog a story about how he was searched by representatives of the so-called law enforcement agencies:

“I was not familiar with Irina Slavina and this text was written even before her death. I just didn't publish it. I didn't want to get too scary, I didn't want to show my weakness, and in general, more dramatic events were taking place in the world than my own search. Another search of another civil activist. Routine, in a word. Now, after the tragedy that happened, this story can be informative in terms of what it is, how it happens and what is the strength of the impact of such actions on human life. Irina Slavina blamed the Russian Federation for her death. I formulated my attitude in a similar way - "A country came to me."

The morning was overcast. It was raining outside the window. I stood in my underpants in my room, and behind me were two hefty fighters in camouflage uniforms, bulletproof vests, with pistols on their belts and in some kind of helmets. I almost physically felt how they were tracking my every move.

The search began at 6 am. The same as a year ago. True, they did not find me sleeping then and there were no these armed guardsmen. This time my family, having heard a soft knock, sleepily opened the door, without waking me up and without even looking through the peephole.

The little green men burst in with a heavy stomp and loud shouts. In truth, I didn't remember their commands. They probably shouted something like "hands behind your head" or "lie down - don't move." After rubbing my eyes a little, the first thing I did was count the visitors. There were eight of them in total.

I have a feeling that someone up there got too carried away with detectives and action movies. Apparently, not all bosses have parted with their childhood. You might have thought that some terrorists had dug in my apartment. However, the noisy intrusion could have been calculated for a purely psychological effect.

The search was commanded by a young and well-fed investigator. She was assisted by three employees of the CPE. The witnesses were two young men with the habits of operatives. The ruling surprised me pretty much. A year ago, they were looking for evidence in relation to one landmark organization, now it was about another, no less iconic structure.

My room has been in a state of protracted renovation for several weeks. This summer I re-plastered the walls with my own hands and have already moved to the ceiling, but I did not have time to finish. The furniture was moved and covered with a film that stained uninvited guests. I mockingly apologized for the mess.

Then the seizures began. The victim was my home computer. For some reason he was taken away along with the keyboard. I couldn’t believe my ears when it seemed to me that they also wanted to withdraw the printer, but then changed their minds.

At the very beginning, all the telephones in plain sight were taken away. One of the operatives brought me my smartphone and asked him to put it into flight mode. I had already undertaken to fulfill the request, but immediately thought that they might be ripped out of my hands in an unlocked state and said that I did not remember the code. He advised to remove the battery.

Then they started rummaging through a huge amount of my papers. Judging by what was seized, there was no particular logic. Last year's certificate of a member of the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Tatarstan, an old copy of a court decision, a map of Macedonia, old correspondence with the Central Election Commission of Russia, a ballot paper five years ago, the final protocol of 2018 from the precinct commission where I worked and a whole bunch of completely ridiculous and useless paper trash for the investigation...

And they also took two colorful glamorous notebooks of one, once a little girl. I asked the investigator if she was ashamed, and she deliberately cheerfully declared that she was not.

I was not so upset with what was happening. At first, it all amused me a little. For the second hour of the search, I put on tights. Some time later, the investigator asked me to cover myself, and I put on the first shirt I came across.

My mood began to deteriorate noticeably after the search moved into the room of my wife and son. Their laptops were taken from them, which had survived during the last search. The son did not like the fact that the operatives were scouring his drawings, his wife also began to resent the arrogance of the guests.

This hurt me and, to my great regret, my restraint changed me. I called one of the employees and became frankly rude. Fortunately, I was quickly calmed down by two camouflage fighters. After a while, I felt linoleum on my face and handcuffs behind my back. The scene was disgusting. I shouted “hit me!”, But for some reason I was never hit.

I was lucky not only with this. A couple of years ago I had some kind of scapular disease, in which it is difficult to get my hands behind my back, but it disappeared without a trace. Otherwise, I would have had bad luck.

Last year I managed to preserve my dignity, but now I have not. It was very difficult to watch strangers mock your family, rummage in their belongings, and you can do nothing to protect your loved ones from humiliation and robbery. You can still fight with ordinary bandits, but not with those in power.

Each person has his weak point and mine was successfully found. The blow struck has reached its goal. I was stopped for a while, and I did not take part in the observation on September 13. It was also not possible to make an operational analysis of the results of the past elections.

Interestingly, the search itself is not considered a punishment. This is just an investigative search. However, I would gladly trade one such incursion for several administrative arrests.

My status in the case is not suspected or accused. I'm just a witness. I don’t know what exactly. Last year they looked for traces of money from one organization, this time - evidence against another. In general, it was very surprising to fall under two different waves of mass searches. Together with me, the coordinator of the “Voice” Movement in Tatarstan Mikhail Tikhonov found himself in the same unique situation.

After the first search, there was still a feeling that this happens to many once in a lifetime. Now it became clear that the investigators had already trodden a path to my house and would come again. Only, probably, in some third case.

Despite the fact that all these criminal cases are of a federal scale, Mikhail Tikhonov and I are not interested in Moscow, and probably unknown. The list of repressed persons is formed here in Tatarstan. Apparently, someone in the republic did not like our activity during the election campaigns.

We, as representatives of the observer communities, could not close our eyes to the numerous violations at the elections and have always made them public. We also trained observers. Apparently, our work was appreciated and a corresponding command was received against us. However, one cannot exclude the initiative of the local department of the CPE.

There is another, more ominous, suggestion that the country has launched a process of purposeful trampling of civil society activists.

The search took about 3 hours. Then I was taken away for interrogation. There I readily used Article 51 of the Constitution, but answered some questions. That I am not familiar with certain people and not associated with the relevant organizations. It was true.

When I returned home, I did not find anyone. The son went to school, the wife went to work. For some reason I remembered the feeling of linoleum on my face and the first thing I did was washed all the floors in the apartment. They say that doing this after living people is not very good, but I hope that it will not hurt uninvited guests. This is their job.

In the evening I was asked what it was? I replied that a country came to me very dissatisfied with its own citizen. But this stupid pathos did not find a response from my loved ones.

I remember from my distant childhood some stories about revolutionaries. About Lenin's grandfather, who, while in prison, wrote secret notes with milk and made an inkwell out of bread. To read such a message, one had to hold the paper over the candles. I also remember a girl who, saving her parents during a search, hid the typographic font in a jug of milk and drank the excess product.

Now I watch with considerable amazement how all these half-forgotten legends about the times of tsarism came into our lives. But I am not at all an underground or a hero. I can't, like radio operator Kat, hide my equipment after every communication. So you can live behind enemy lines, but not at home.

I roughly understand why now they are persecuting one and the other. I am perfectly aware that the same fate awaits us, observers. But I was reassured by the feeling that it was as if our turn had not yet come, and this feeling of the prematureness of repressions causes me frank annoyance.

Due to the search, I was forced to interrupt one of my significant work for a while. It was as if all the tools had been snatched from my hands. It's a shame that there was not enough time. He will probably never be missed.

The investigative robbery forced me to suspend my activities. But is it possible for me to give up my ideas and beliefs? I think that this requires stronger means..."

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