19 November 2015
Source: Team 29
A brief guide on what to do if the FSB show an interest in you
Each year the FSB is opening new cases under the article of the criminal code for treason. The trials are closed to the public and fraught with arbitrariness. The lawyers of Team 29 here set out what you should do if the security services become interested in you.
The FSB can visit you at any moment
This can happen for any reason, there is no need for them to be investigating a criminal case. The security services are interested in you perhaps because you published an article in a foreign journal, met with a foreigner with whom you are acquainted, or exchanged e-mails with your your family abroad – whether Georgians, Ukrainians or Americans, it makes no difference.
First of all they can come to you in a so-called pre-investigation check
There is no criminal case, there is only interest. This happens in the following way. Early in the morning you are getting ready to go to work. You are met at the entrance to your building by FSB officers, they show their ID, and propose that you go along with them for a chat. They politely hint that it would be better to do that or else they might use other means, and in general they express themselves in riddles. You go where they ask, you talk with them, they record it, and then the results of the conversation can figure as evidence in a criminal case against you.
[See here for information about cases concerning state secrets in Russia]
They will open a criminal case without your participation. This could happen straight away
They come to where you live at 7 am or 8 am to conduct a search. They knock on the door and say they are neighbours, courtyard sweepers, plumbers, a postman – in fact anything to make you open the door. You open the door – and FSB officers are already standing in your apartment, they show you the requisite documents, the court order, and conduct a search. Most likely very soon you find yourself on the way to the investigator’s office where an official record of your arrest is made out. A government lawyer is already waiting for you there (the so called ‘appointed lawyer’). You don’t understand anything. They tell you that you have to tell them everything. The evidence you give in the investigator’s office is recorded. The investigator usually chooses for you the language used in the statement. You suggest rephrasing something. In reply he says that it’s not important.
You think you’ll explain everything and they’ll let you go, but instead you are taken to court where you are remanded in custody.
Meanwhile they want your family and relatives to sign agreements not to disclose information about the case. You are taken to Lefortovo and the investigator continues to build a case against you and you are no longer taking part in this. Your family are in shock and because of that are not able to do anything.
All this can be avoided. How?
No interrogation or court order? No chat
When they simply invite you for a chat, you must not under any circumstances ever agree to go anywhere. They can threaten you, but there is no need to be afraid. At the initial stage of the check, when you are being questioned, you are not obliged to give explanations, and this is your right as a citizen. You can just say: ‘I don’t want and don’t wish to give any explanations.’ Sometimes this can protect you from any kind of criminal prosecution whatsoever.
Find a lawyer
You need to do this as soon as you understand that they may bring a criminal case against you. Agree with the lawyer that if need be they will come to help you out. Moreover, ask the lawyer immediately to find a specialist in cases investigated by the FSB: someone experienced in these kinds of cases is needed.
[See here for information about those convicted of treason]
When they detain you and want to question you, refuse to give any testimony whatsoever. This is your right under Articles 46 and 47 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. It is better to keep silent. Moreover, do not agree to have the legal representative provided by the state, but ask for your own lawyer to be called out, making sure to say that you already have an agreement with the lawyer. You must refuse the services of any other lawyer you do not know and force the investigator to enter this into the record of proceedings.
No testimony whatsoever
You must warn your family and relatives that they must never agree to sign any agreement not to make public information about the case, nor to give testimony. Article 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation gives a person the right not to bear witness against their family and relatives. The law enforcement officials may even threaten your relatives and invite witnesses. Remember: your relatives are wholly within their rights not to sign anything and not to say anything.
Did you find this useful? Download this memo (version one and version two), print it and share it with others.
Team 29: Who are we?
Article 29 of the Constitution establishes the right to freely seek, receive, communicate, create and disseminate information by any legal means. And we defend Article 29.
More information about Team 29 can be read here, here and here.
Translated by Simon Cosgrove