Rule of Law Institute
  State Drug Control Agency

Cherkesov’s agency persecutes gardeners

RUSSIA, Moscow. Russia’s Federal Service for the Control of Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances (FSCNS) headed by Victor Cherkesov criminally persecutes owners of dachas and allotments who grow garden poppy, although the plant is not listed as containing narcotic substances, lawyer Stanislav Markelov and Irina Batourina whom he represents in court, told the press conference.

13 August FSCNS officials turned up at Batourina’s dacha allotment and said they had reports that she grew poppy. They told her off the record that they knew the poppy wasn’t cultivated and grew as a weed but as it is present they would have to instigate a criminal case.

The case was started on 16 August 2004. Investigators confiscated the poppy, which was then dried and weighed. The expert concluded that the resulting figure represents the weight of the narcotic substance. According to the Russian government’s decree issued in September 2004, besides the opium poppy, there are other species of poppy which contain narcotic substances. However, the list has no detailed specifications and it could not possibly cover the garden poppy. Besides, the document cannot be applied in retrospective.

23 November 2004 the court gave Irina Batourina a conditional sentence of three years’ imprisonment rather than three years in high security penal colony sought by the Prosecutor. The case was conducted with numerous breaches of procedure. The court impeded Batourina’s access to her case file. Stanislav Markelov showed journalists a photocopy of the questioning record, which had writing added after it had been signed by the accused, saying: "I suspected that it might be possible to extract a narcotic from this poppy."

Those present at the press conference said that such cases are not unique. They quoted a forensic expert who said that he dealt with some twenty such cases each month. The appeals instance revoked the sentence but did not dismiss the case. The new board is due to hear the case again on 22 February, said Stanislav Markelov and stressed that he expects the prosecution to end.

In response to the question from PRIMA-News correspondent as to investigators’ responsibility in fabricating the case, Markelov said that the court must pass a rider to their effect or even raise the issue of their suitability for the posts. According to his words, the investigation presented before the court a case that lacks evidence and has no prospect of an indictment.

Translated by Olga Sharp

Source: PRIMA-News Agency, 16.2.2005


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