Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 46

A group of human rights activists have set up a “Public Committee to Protect Mikhail Trepashkin,” Kavkazky Uzel reported on November 28. Trepashkin, the dissident ex-FSB lawyer who tried to investigate his former employer’s links to the 1999 apartment building bombings, received a four-year prison sentence in May 2004 for revealing state secrets and for illegally carrying a pistol in his car. He was released on parole in September 2005 after serving two years of his sentence, but rearrested two weeks later after the state appealed the parole decision.

Trepashkin was an adviser to former Duma deputy Sergei Kovalev’s commission that investigated the 1999 apartment building bombings in Moscow and Volgodonsk and the planting of a bomb that did not explode in an apartment bloc in Ryazan. The former FSB colonel claims the charges against him were fabricated in retaliation for his allegations of FSB involvement in those bombings. The FSB claimed he was recruited by Britain’s MI5 to collect compromising materials on the explosions with the aim of discrediting the FSB. In December 2005, Amnesty International warned that Trepashkin’s health was deteriorating in the prison settlement near Nizhny Tagil in Sverdlovsk Oblast where he was being held. In March, the London-based human rights group declared him a political prisoner.

“The murder of Anna Politkovskaya and Aleksandr Litvinenko shook the world,” the founders of the Public Committee to Protect Mikhail Trepashkin said in a statement. “We saw how easily…people who exposed the dark secrets of the war in Chechnya and the crimes of the siloviki were chosen to be victims of terror.” Trepashkin took up “the problem of the special services’ involvement in the explosions of the Moscow apartment buildings in September 1999” and as a lawyer, represented victims of those blasts, the statement’s signatories noted. Today, Trepashkin is “seriously ill,” they wrote, yet the administration of the prison where he is incarcerated “is impeding his right to be hospitalized in the [Nizhny Tagil] city hospital in every way possible. The refusal to hospitalize [him] is supported the Sverdlovsk Oblast Prosecutor’s Office. At the same time, unofficially, reference is made to…Moscow as being the source of the refusal.” (On May 29, a judge ordered that Trepashkin be hospitalized after he suffered a severe asthma attack. However, he was reportedly forcefully taken out of the hospital and back to prison later that day by prison staff. On May 31, Amnesty International issued a statement warning that without proper medical treatment, his life could be in danger.)

The committee’s statement continued: “We have serious grounds to believe that Trepashkin could become the next victim in the series of violent acts. Therefore, we are setting up a public committee to protect the political prisoner Mikhail Ivanovich Trepashkin. The goals of the committee are…ensuring Trepashkin’s rights to hospitalization and effective medical treatment and the repeal of an unfair verdict and [his] exculpation.” Among the committee’s founders who signed the statement were Lev Ponomarev, head of the For Human Rights movement; Yury Samodurov, director of the Andrei Sakharov Museum and Public Center; and Aleksei Yablokov, the academician and prominent environmentalist.