A lawyer is at the center of the repressive machine in Russia

Lthe witness puts his text on the table in front of the judge of the Moscow court and begins to read aloud: “This man is a liar, inclined to machination, a member of an anti-Russian political sect.”

That person is there, kept in the glass cage reserved for the accused in the court. He listens to this woman who says she should rot in jail for opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

His lawyer, Maria Eismont, listens in disbelief. After five minutes, he stands up and interrupts.

AFP followed Maria Eismont, 47, a rival defense specialist, for two weeks. As a new wave of repression descends on Russia, he talks about his motivations and tells the inside story of the system.

“This statement does not answer the question. We are listening to a very strange lesson, a kind of thinking, a text that talks about people who have nothing to do with the case,” says the lawyer loudly and condemningly. a bit muffled.

“Comrade lawyer, this text says that the accused person, who presented himself as an innocent little sheep, participated in actions against Russia,” retorts the witness and encourages the judge to continue.

Statements similar to the indictment continue in the Moscow court. The witness’s increasingly loud voice mixes with the ticking of the officer’s keyboard.

The accused, 23-year-old Dmitri Ivanov, was the host of the opposition channel dedicated to students of Moscow State University in Telegram messaging. He was arrested in April and accused of “spreading false information” about the army. He faces 10 years in prison.

The witness, 62-year-old Lioudmila Grigorieva, is a physics and chemistry researcher at the country’s most prestigious university.

“Have you been to Mariupol or Butcha?” Maria Eismont asked, referring to two cities in Ukraine where the Russian military has been accused of abuses. asks the question.

“No, but I have family in Donetsk, the capital of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine,” he replies. I know what happened thanks to them and the Russian Defense Ministry.”

Maria Eismont disappoints the audience. He regrets that the account of the Russian army is used as “a priori truth” during the trial without any fact checking.

“Even if nobody cares”

A few days ago, Maria Eysmont was in Moscow’s Boutyrka prison. He came to see one of his most prominent clients, his rival Ilya Yachin, who was arrested in June for condemning the attack in Ukraine.

“Our whole life has changed, there is a terrible war, we cry, we are discouraged, we see this tragedy every day. But there is no change in terms of the functioning of this system,” says Maria Eismont. Excellent French, which he learned during the Soviet era.

“For a long time,” he says, it has been “impossible” to prove his innocence in Russia. Suddenly the lawyer stops. “Look who’s there.” Behind him, Ilya Iachine’s parents come to visit their son in prison.

The authorities try to isolate as much as possible the jailed opponents and increasingly restrict public access to the courts. With official requests, Maria Eismont struggles to maintain the appearance of transparency while supporting families.

“He’s like a therapist,” said Valerie Iachine, 62, the rival’s father. “He calmed our emotions as much as possible.” His son faces 10 years in prison.

A lawyer since 2018 after a career in journalism, Maria Eismont has already defended many critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin, notably the NGO Memorial, a pillar of human rights protection and co-founder of the Nobel Peace Prize.

In mid-October, we see him sipping a glass of wine at a restaurant near his apartment in central Moscow. The lawyer, who has three children, says he has taken in more than 70 Ukrainian refugees in transit since the conflict began.

Unlike thousands of Russians fleeing repression and military mobilization, he has no desire to leave the country. “There are people here to help.”

Maria Eismont very rarely wins her trials. But he doesn’t care. “I don’t gamble in a casino.”

It tells the story of a man who for many years maintained the runway of an old airfield in a village in the Far North. Until the day when the plane crashed in 2010 and managed to crash land there. Without this man, the runway would be unusable and the passengers would certainly have perished.

“You always have to be ready. You have to keep demanding respect for rights and laws. Even if nobody cares,” says Maria Eismont. He is sure that this will serve “the day when justice will return to Russia”.

24/10/2022 04:30:50 – Moscow (AFP) – © 2022 AFP

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