The stories of those who were betrayed by their fellow man, cornered by corrupt institutions and executed without cause nor crime in the name of "justice". These are our stories.

December 4, 2011

State Of Fear: Russian Democracy

Grigory Melkonyants
A leader of an opposition party in modern Russian is arrested for opposing the ruling United Russia party of Medvedev and Putin.

The leader of Russia's only independent election monitor was detained at a Moscow airport for 12 hours, a colleague said Saturday, the latest government pressure on the group ahead of Sunday's parliamentary vote.

Golos has documented thousands of election law violations during the latest campaign — most of them linked to the United Russia party, which dominates the Kremlin and supports Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

United Russia dominates Russia's political life and has received overwhelmingly favorable coverage during the campaign, mostly from Kremlin-controlled national television. But the party is increasingly disliked, seen as representing a corrupt bureaucracy and often called "the party of crooks and thieves."

Golos leader Lilya Shibanova was held at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport after refusing to give her laptop to security officers late Friday, the group's deputy director Grigory Melkonyants said. She was released after giving up the computer, he said.

"The detention was politically motivated," Melkonyants told The Associated Press.

The detention follows a decision Friday by a Moscow district court to fine Golos $1,000 for violating a law forbidding the publication of public opinion research within five days of an election.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev
Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev. Photo courtesy of Moscow Times.

The group has come under growing pressure since Sunday, when Putin accused Western governments of trying to influence the election through their funding of unidentified Russian non-governmental organizations. Golos, whose name means "vote," is supported by grants from the United States and Europe.
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The group's staffers all over Russia "face threats and psychological pressure," Melkonyants said.

Kremlin-controlled NTV television showed a half-hour program on Friday evening that attacked Golos directly. The program included shots of suitcases full of U.S. dollars and claimed that Golos was openly supporting opposition parties and trying to discredit the elections.

The Kremlin is determined to see United Russia maintain its majority in parliament. President Dmitry Medvedev and Putin, who serves as prime minister, both made final appeals for the party on Friday, warning that a parliament made up of diverse political camps would be incapable of making decisions.

The Moscow Times reports that Putin needs the United Russia party to do well in the parliamentary election to pave the way for his return to the presidency in a vote now three months away. This would be Putin's third presidential term and 13th year in power since he became acting President on the December 31st of 1999 when Russia's first president, Boris Yeltsin, resigned in a surprising move.

References:
MSNBC, Russian Watchdog Group Arrested
Wikipedia, Russia United Party
Moscow Times, On-line Edition
Eurasia Review, Putin Party Suffers Big Loss

February 2, 2011

Das Volksgerichtshof: The People's Court

Helmuth James Graf von Moltke
Von Moltke stands defiant before the Nazi appendage: Das Volksgerichtshof.

In early 1945, the Allies had gained a strong enough foothold in Europe to threaten Nazi Germany. As the Nazi Regime began a final descent into utter defeat, the Gestapo frantically prosecuted those who had spoke out against the war or were seen as capable of leadership after the Reich was swept away. The targets of the Nazi's rage came from universities and the higher echelon of German society. These were citizens who, for reasons either personal or practical, remained in Germany as it crumbled.

The Nazis sought credible opposition voices among these groups and silenced them publicly in kangaroo courts. The courts were called Volksgerichtshof or "People's Courts". In these courts, being on trial guaranteed a sentence of death.

"If you knew that your nation was savagely butchering its own people in semi-secret camps; if you thought your leader was a madman whose decisions would inevitably ruin your country and threaten all of civilization; would you sit still or would you try to do something?"
- Helmuth von Moltke, from his last letter to his wife, 1945.

One of these trials centered on Helmuth von Moltke, an outspoken critic of Hitler and descendent of a German national hero from WWI. Von Moltke, himself was a prominent lawyer. Since the raise of the Third Reich in the early 1930's von Moltke frequently questioned the Nazi's ambition to conquer the Western Europe, kill Jews and brutally attack their own people. He was targeted for the Volksgerichtshof to serve as a warning to those who opposed the regime.

Dr. Carl Friedrich Goerdeler argues for his life before the Nazi appendage.
Dr. Carl Friedrich Goerdeler argues for his life before the Nazi death courts.

In pursuing high-profile political opponents, the Nazi warning was this: no matter how well bred - anyone opposing Hitler's power lust would die. Von Moltke, who appeared resolute and stone faced after an impassioned defense, was pronounced guilty of Treason.

His execution took place on January 23rd 1945 just four months before Germany unconditionally surrendered to the Allies.

References:
Wikipedia, Helmuth James Graf von Moltke
Wikipedia, Dr. Carl Friedrich Goerdeler
Martyr's Letter, January 11, 1945
Letters to Freya : 1939-1945; edited and translated from German by Beate Ruhm von Oppen. New York : Knopf, 1990.