My adventures with Interpol - Pyotr Silaev

On 22 August 2012, the anti-fascist Pyotr Silaev was arrested in
Grenada. He is an activist in anti-governmental protests, and the author
of the book “Exodus” (published in Finland, Greece, Italy and Germany),
under the pseudonym DJ Stalingrad.

Submitted by S2W on August 16, 2013

Pyotr took part in the infamous
protests in Khimki, which for some protestors ended in jail or hospital
(as it did for the renowned journalist Oleg Kashin, who was attacked
with baseball bats near his home). Around 400 young people threw stones
and flares at the administrative office of the town in protest against
the construction of the Moscow – St. Petersburg highway through the
Khimki forest – one of the few remaining green oases around Moscow. The
situation bore some similarity to the recent events in Istanbul.

The grounds for the arrest were participation in an unsanctioned
demonstration. But in Russia, who sanctions demonstrations by opponents
to the regime? At the time of his arrest, Pyotr Silaev had the status of
a category A political refugee in Finland, which did not stop the
Spanish police from putting him in a Madrid jail at the request of the
Russian prosecutor’s office, which sent information about Pyotr to
Interpol. Just to be on the safe side, Madrid charged Pyotr with
terrorism and possession of weapons and explosives. Not even the
intervention of the Finnish embassy helped. It was like something out of
Kafka! When he got out of jail, Pyotr was forced to remain on Spanish
territory, without any means of support and under the threat of
deportation to Russia. All of the charges against him were only dropped
quite recently.
This is what the author himself wrote about the reason for his arrest
and the “excellent” work of Interpol.

My adventures with Interpol

Yesterday I received a letter from Interpol – and I sighed with relief.
>From all appearances, this strange international case which I
unexpectedly found myself at the center of was coming to an end.
Oligarchs, “red notices”, terrorism – “…from all these woes, may God
deliver us…” I’ll discuss everything in order.

In July 2010, on a hot day, I made an ill-fated trip to the Moscow
Oblast with a group of friends, which ended with the Khimki prosecutor’s
office opening a criminal case against me under the laughable charge of
“hooliganism”. No one understood, not at the time or later, what my
crime actually involved. A few months later I was traveling in the
European Union on a tourist visa, waiting for a decision on my
application to be granted political refuge – while the Moscow Region
police continued to arrest, beat and use plastic bags to suffocate my
distant acquaintances, interrogating them to find out where I was hiding
in Moscow. The people gasped for air as they were tortured, but they
really could not help the police at all – and so I was put on the
federal wanted list. Perhaps this played a crucial role in the decision
of the Finnish authorities to grant me the “elite” status of a political
refugee – category “A” international protection.

In August 2012, I left cold Finland for Spain to warm myself in the rays
of the scorching sun, and indeed I had plenty of opportunity to get
warm, in the walking yard of the maximum security prison Soto del Real.
In the morning, a police squad came bursting in to the room of the cheap
hostel where I was staying, handcuffed me and took me to the station
with a convoy – they told me that I was charged with possessing weapons
and explosives. I was alarmed – everyone knows about the Spanish
paranoia of the war on terrorism, and I could really have ended up in a
really nasty situation because of a mistake. After long hours of
waiting, I was taken to the investigator’s office – there was already a
group of inquisitive officers in the room, as well as the public lawyer.
I was shown a photocopy of an order from Interpol for 2011: articulo 213
de codigo penal de Federacia Rusa - "Gamberrismo" (hooliganism) – two
years later the “Khimki case” had finally caught up with me.

I sighed with relief and took my plastic refugee card out of my pocket –
status “A”, international protection. “No te entiendo” – no one in the
room could read or speak English. By using gestures, I tried to tell the
police about the basic meaning of the Geneva convention of 1951, inform
them about the regulations on the status of refugees, non-refoulement
and the common European space of political refuge. I only made them
smile – no one believed me. “Sign everything,” the lawyer said. “You’ll
be sent home soon, you won’t have to spend so long in jail.”

I was handcuffed again and taken to the court in Madrid. “OK,” I
thought, as I lay on the floor of the police car, with my hands behind
my back. “Perhaps a provincial policeman doesn’t know international law.
At the National court, the highest court in the kingdom, they must be
better informed.” I was mistaken – on the same day, the judge, without
looking at my papers from the Finnish embassy, signed a decree to put me
in custody and start the extradition process. It took me 10 days, using
all my efforts and connections, for this decision to be overturned, and
for me to be released. After this, my case dragged on for another six
months out of inertia, and ended with the unanimous decision of the
judges that it did “not conform to legislation”.

Since then I have had quite a lot of time to look more deeply into the
problem of extradition legislation and cooperation on the basis of
Interpol. First of all, I was interested as to whether a person could
really be extradited from one country of the European Union if he had
political refuge in another. In international law, there is a regulation
on “non-refoulement” – “non-extradition”, when the state may officially
refuse extradition in a court of law. However, this regulation did not
apply to me – I was already under political protection at the moment of
my arrest. The Geneva Convention states directly that refugees cannot be
extradited under any circumstances. However, the Geneva Convention is
already over half a century old, and I would have to find some internal
European document which directly refuted this possibility.

I started searching. In 1999, in the Finnish city of Tampere, a summit
of European Union countries on issues of immigration was held. By that
time, the flows of people who used the Convention of 1951 as their last
chance to escape from the hell of “third world” countries had become a
flood: hundreds of thousands of people fled on rafts from Turkey to
Greece, from Libya to Italy, from Algeria and Morocco to Spain, and from
the CIS people fled in trains to Poland. These were well-established
routes by which you could enter the territory of the European Union,
request political refuge, and while your case was being examined, you
could go to better-off parts of the Schengen zone, such as Belgium or
the Netherlands, and submit your documents again. To prevent these
movements, it was decided to unite national procedures for receiving
refugees into a common system – the result of the meeting in Tampere was
the signing of a declaration of intentions to unify the system
completely for all countries in the European Union. “A common Europe – a
common refuge”.

14 years have gone by since then – to my own dissatisfaction, I
discovered that these recommendations were implemented in a very
one-sided way. In 2003, the infamous “Dublin-2” bill appeared, which
consolidated the judicial aspect of the “Fortress Europe” project with
its regulations for once and for all. Information about all immigrants
is now recorded in a single data base, and those requesting refuge are
concentrated in a system of special camps on the territory of “buffer”
countries – from the list given above. The authorities of the European
Union now take the decision themselves where you have the right to be –
“political protection is equal and identical in each one of the
countries”. At the same time, no documents were signed to the effect
that this protection applies to the territory of the other countries.
“One for all, but not all for one” – this contradiction is quite
glaring, but nevertheless, no steps have yet been taken to fix the

In the end, I found an assessment of the existing situation in a report
by the UN High Commissioner for refugees – and my heart sank. “A person
in such position can find himself in a very precarious situation” – this
was all that the head international body on issues of political refuge
could tell me. Every year, many journalists, bloggers, activists and
politicians are arrested in European Union countries – as a result of
orders signed in Uzbekistan, Belarus, Indonesia or China. European
legislation cannot do anything to oppose this, despite the Convention of
1951, the mere mention of which makes lawyers smirk.

There are grounds for skepticism – the post-war agreement on the status
of refugees was clearly intended for a world which was not destined to
come into being. In accordance with this agreement, all of the signatory
countries undertake not to return refugees under any circumstances – and
almost every country signed it. Thus, literally following the principle
would theoretically lead to a situation when any criminal could buy
himself refugee status in Uzbekistan, and forget about prosecution
forever – it is not surprising that in all countries around the world,
people usually turn a blind eye to the Convention. The only overseer of
the Convention today is the institution of the UN High Commissioner, who
at present mainly carries out advisory functions. In a case when a
country does not observe the rules of the Convention, he may apply
certain sanctions – which are unfortunately also of an advisory nature.
Thus, the dichotomy of “Interpol – political refuge” that was invented
half a century ago was completely violated: with a “red notice” from
Interpol, you will really be arrested and thrown in jail – and
physically, not on an advisory level.

It’s now time to say a few words about Interpol – I constantly encounter
systematic ignorance about this institution among the people I talk to.
No, I’m not going to discuss the fact that in the 1930s its headquarters
was located in Vienna, and after the Anschluss the organization came
under the control of the Third Reich – at one time it was headed by
Ernst Kaltenbrunner himself. That’s not what I want to talk about at
all. Interpol is an international non-commercial organization, which at
present is based in France, in the city of Lyon. Its main activity is to
support the work of special postal mailing, such as echo conferences on
FidoNet, to which national offices may write applications. In Lyon,
these requests are processed, they are given codes and labels – and then
sent over the entire network. Interpol itself does not investigate cases
and does not issue orders – it is just a postal client, which allows
national security bodies to exchange data about people of interest to
them in a unified form. After the trial was over, I received copies of
this correspondence: in broken English, the investigator Ochnev from
Khimki (in the correspondence he amusingly called himself “agent
Ochnev”) requested to be given assistance in my arrest. In two
sentences, he stated the charge against me: “he joined a mob of 150-300
people, which marched to the administration building, and using rocks,
paint bombs and smoke flares, did damage to the building of a cost of
395,000 rubles”. No real actions on my part were described in this
letter – the Spanish police had to resort to falsification, and changed
the smoke flares into “possessing explosives” – no judge would have
signed a sanction for arrest on the charge of “joining a mob”.

This really would have been amusing, if it hadn’t been sad – thanks to
one simple email, I was not only arrested and spent some time in jail –
in the course of my slow-moving case, the Spanish was forced to exchange
investigative correspondence with the Russian Interior Ministry, and
gave them a lot of personal information about me – my current addresses,
above all… I decided to act, and wrote a letter to another office which
worked on cases for exclusion from the Interpol database – the British
association Fair Trials International. Previously, while studying the
statistics for extradition cases, I had come across several sensational
cases which they had won – and it was a pleasant surprise for me when
they rang me the next day.

“Your case is very interesting for us – it’s a gross violation on
Interpol’s part” –I could hear genuine enthusiasm in the case manager’s
voice,. “We’re also very happy to have a case from Russia in our
portfolio. It’s very pleasant for us to finally be dealing with a…
traditional activist, you understand…”


The machinery of the law was put in motion, and we drew up an official
statement to the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files (CCF) –
a special body designed to examine national requests for compliance with
the third article of the Interpol Constitution. “The organization is
strictly prohibited from taking part or intervening into activities of a
political, military, religious or racial nature.” In my case, the
Commission had clearly committed negligence, and not only failed to see
the political motive of my prosecution, but also the lack of an element
of crime – which was noted by the National Court of Spain in a harsh
form. Several reports appeared in the press, the English made a small
clip with my participation – everything took its course, until the
Russian authorities acted in their usual manner.

Drooling with pleasure, officials from the Interior Ministry informed
the public that they had just sent Interpol a request for the arrest of
William Browder, the head of the Hermitage Capital hedge fund, which
initiated sanctions against a number of Russian officials on the
Magnitsky List, which, I guess, everyone is familiar with. I still don’t
understand why they published this – there is no doubt that the CCF
would have let pass this request, and Browder would have been suddenly
arrested somewhere in Saudi Arabia while on a business trip, to his
great dissatisfaction. But the Russians preferred to publicly humiliate
themselves rather than play a witty prank: a scandal erupted on the
pages of all the newspapers in England. Browder wrote furious articles,
human rights advocates castigated the bloody regime, and commentators
recalled that Kaltenbrunner had been the head of Interpol. Fair Trials
International also cautiously raised its voice, stating that timely
reform of the entire organization and the CCF in particular could
prevent such situations. In many articles, as an illustrative example of
the unprincipled nature of the Russian authorities in using the
international warrant system, my case was mentioned – and unexpectedly
for myself, I became an English media personality. The bacchanalia in
the press lasted for a week, until finally a roar of thunder was heard –
the voice of Interpol itself. “Big Ron” – Ronald Noble, the general
secretary of the organization, replied in an open letter to The Telegraph.

“Interpol makes the world safer” – first of all, Mr. Noble informs the
public that Russia’s request concerning William Browder was thoroughly
examined for presence of political motivation – and rejected. The rest
of the letter is a rather harsh rebuff to any proposals for possible
changes in the system: “The recent example of William Browder’s case
demonstrates the extent to which Interpol cares for human rights – and
does not require any reforms”.

Mr. Noble continues: “Would our critics really not want Russia to warn
us about suspected child molesters, human traffickers, rapists,
murderers… or terrorists, as in the case of the Tsarnaev brothers?”
It was a very strange letter – because the article by the columnist
Peter Oborne, which Noble formally replied to, was mainly about me. It
contained rather harmless sentiments in favor of reforming the system
for gathering data – so why did it get such an aggressive response, so
that I found myself in the company of child molesters and murderers?
Especially since the need for this reform has been under discussion for
many years.

The methodology and practice of Interpol is terribly outdated – every
police officer knows that a request to include a dossier in the database
usually lasts at least a year. Many Poles, Czechs and Latvians were with
me in the Madrid prison, who were arrested by Interpol for unpaid
consumer loans – after extradition they would be immediately released,
as their cases would have long been closed by that time. In 1994, the
Europeans created a more modern and effective system of searches for
wanted people – it is called Europol, and it carries out the same
functions on the territory of the EU.

Interpol is a very small organization, and around 700 people work at its
headquarters in Lyon – for all 190 member countries. This gives scope
for arbitrary decisions and corruption – in 2008, Interpol President
Jackie Selebi was dismissed on charges of taking bribes and suspected
links with drug cartels. It would be quite unrealistic to expect that
this number of people could control all the correspondence sent to them
by “Agent Ochnevs” from all over the world. The system is mainly built
on trust, and the assumption that all police officers in the world are
honest – an idea that is even more utopian than the Geneva Convention or
the Declaration of Human Rights put together.

This is also the memory of a world which was not destined to come into
being – the world of post-war optimism. However, there is more involved
than optimism – in the new, highly unstable geopolitical situation, the
main players had to create a certain framework, a common humanitarian
playing field, in which everyone would be prepared to operate on equal
conditions. Since then, over half a century has gone by, and no one
needs optimism or a common chessboard – UN bodies at present mainly
carry out information functions. At the same time, Interpol, on the
contrary, is constantly expanding, increasing its budget, and bringing
in new members. Mr. Noble signs an agreement with the Turkmenistan
Interior Ministry, he visits Dushanbe, goes to a reception in Mongolia –
and congratulates Alexander Lukashenko on solving the case of the
explosion in the Minsk metro at lightning speed. The two men who were
charged with the explosion were subsequently executed, although the
majority of human rights advocates believe them to be innocent. This was
a very provocative gesture, given the image that the “last dictator in
Europe” has in the world – one gets the feeling that Noble is playing
his own international game.

Ronald Noble became the Secretary General of Interpol in 2000, at a time
when the organization was in a state of permanent crisis. But a year
later, on the 11th of September, everything changed. “We can say that
Interpol was reborn on the 11th of September 2001,” Noble later said.
Enormous funds were invested in its rebirth – from this point onwards,
the key task of the organization was gathering information about armed
groups and rebels all over the world. In particular, new classes of
notices were introduced, which made it possible to keep track of the
movements of suspects, along with new data bases of identification
documents and drivers’ licenses – Ronald Noble felt very comfortable in
his role. On his CV, his previous job was at the US Department of the
Treasury, where he was the Undersecretary for Enforcement. He was in
charge of the US Secret Service (the president’s personal body guard
service), and also the Office for combating terrorism and gathering
financial information: Ronald Noble is a former high-ranking
counterintelligence official. “It’s irrelevant whether a friend or an
enemy informs you about dangerous people,” he constantly repeats in
interviews. “America should invest more in the international police
force and Interpol,” he wrote in an article in the New York Times. “This
is the only path for gathering and analyzing valuable information”.

One gets the impression that Mr. Noble is one of the busiest officials
in the world. He constantly signs new agreements on cooperation, sends
open letters and writes articles – he uses the carrot and stick approach
left, right and center. Vladimir Markin from the Investigatory Committee
once more shows dazzling flashes of wit, and proposes for Givi
Targamadze to move for good to Micronesia and Tuvalu, to escape from the
united actions of the Russian investigation and Interpol – he is
absolutely certain of success, for some reason. One month later, Novaya
Gazeta publishes an open letter by Noble to President Saakashvili: “The
request of the Russian Federation does not comply with the third article
of the Constitution… We hope for further productive cooperation on
Georgia’s part.” He made the Russians a laughing-stock – and immediately
praised them for participation in the case of the Tsarnaev brothers.
Humiliation and reward – the small, compact organization does not make
it possible to examine criminal cases in detail, but it does make it
possible to encourage and punish fickle regimes, while formally being
outside politics. This is a large-scale geopolitical game, in which
despite all the assurances, fugitive opposition members of all kinds
will play an increasingly important role – as figures to be exchanged,
of course.

One week ago, the Tverskoy Court in Moscow ordered to put Bill Browder
in custody – the prosecutor’s office stubbornly states that it is
prepared to send a document for his arrest to Lyon for the second time.
In response, Browder threatens to put all his efforts into excluding
Russia from Interpol altogether for systematic violations – but I expect
that in light of the situation I have described, this will not go beyond
a threat. In my opinion, Interpol is not threatened by any reforms. As
for myself, I haven’t bought any shares in Gazprom, and generally I
prefer to lead a cautious life – yesterday I finally received a letter
from the CCF. “We wish to inform you that all the data about your case
will henceforth be restricted for all participants of the network”.
Thanks for that, at least.


Forwarded by
Anarchist Black Cross Moscow
abc-msk A riseup D net
P.O. Box 13 109028 Moscow Russia


Chilli Sauce

10 years 10 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on August 16, 2013

I'm not sure news is the best place for this.