Just as we did after the killing of Anna Politkovskaya, it’s time now following the brutal murder of Alexander Litvinenko to ask: Who’s next? We who sit idly by in the aftermath of these outrageous actions become complicit in them. We must ask not only who may be next, but what we can do to protect them, and hence ourselves, from the next act of crude, cowardly violence.
Here’s the Wikipedia entry on Mr. Mikhail Trepashkin. Could he be next on the Kremlin’s hit list? Reader Jeremy Putley thinks it’s possible. Litvinenko wrote a book about the Moscow apartment bombings, now he’s pushing up daisies. Anna Politkovskaya was also on the case, and she’s singing with angels. Who else was working the story? Mr. Trepashkin was. La Russophobe has previously reported on Trepashkin and his wife and has already reported how Trepashkin tried to warn Litvinenko that he had been targeted, too late.
Mikhail Trepashkin, (Russian: Михаил Трепашкин) a Moscow attorney and former FSB officer, was invited by MP Sergei Kovalev to assist in an independent inquiry of the Russian apartment bombings in September 1999 – the atrocities that provoked the Second Chechen War and skyrocketed Vladimir Putin to presidency. The inquiry led to nowhere because of the government stonewalling . Then two sisters whose mother was killed in one of the houses hired Trepashkin to represent them in the trial of two Russian Muslims accused of transporting explosives for the bombings . While preparing for the trial Trepashkin uncovered a trail of a mysterious suspect whose description had disappeared from the files. To his amazement, the man turned out to be one of his former FSB colleagues. He also found a witness who testified that evidence was doctored to lead the investigation away from incriminating the FSB . But Trepashkin never managed to air his findings in court. On October 22, 2003, just a week before the hearings, a gun was allegedly planted into his car, and he ended up behind bars. However, before his arrest he told his story to a Moscow journalist . The gun charge was thrown out by a Moscow appeals court, but Trepashkin was convicted by a closed military court to four years for “disclosing official secrets” . In September 2005 after serving two years of his sentence, Trepashkin was released on parole, but two weeks later was re-arrested after the State appealed the parole decision . The case of Mikhail Trepashkin caught the attention of the Western press , caused an uproar among human rights campaigners , was put on record by Amnesty International, mentioned by the US State Department  and even featured in an award-winning documentary Disbelief. Mikhail Trepashkin recently managed to send a few letters from his prison . He asks why did the democratic forces of Russia betrayed him while Aleksander Litvinenko, he and others bravely came forward to tell the truth about FSB.
Putley writes: “He is in immediate danger of being murdered in prison, and he is the only remaining from those Russian journalists and dissidents who were working on the 1999 explosions. Fortunately his fellow dissidents in Russia have realized the implications and created a special committee for him. I think that we ought to do some more for him here in the West, too. Especially in the UK, now that there will be a focus on the Russian business for some time.”
Here’s U.S. Congressman Christopher Smith on Trepashkin (from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives):
Mr. Speaker, there is reason to fear for the fate of rule of law in Russia. I want to present one relevant example. Mikhail Trepashkin, an attorney and former Federal Security Service, FSB, officer was arrested on October 24, 2003, a week before he was scheduled to represent in legal proceedings the relatives of one of the victims of a terrorist attack in Moscow. Mr. Trepashkin’s American client is Tatyana Morozova of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In September 1999, Ms. Morozova’s mother was killed and her sister barely survived the bombing of an apartment house in Moscow. Officially, the crime was blamed on Chechen separatists, but Mr. Trepashkin was expected to present the findings of his investigation which suggested involvement of elements of the FSB in the 1999 apartment bombings in Moscow as well as an aborted attempted bombing in the city of Ryazan. Mr. Trepashkin had been a consultant to the public commission set up by prominent human rights activist and former Duma Deputy Sergei Kovalev to investigate the 1999 bombings. The Kovalev commission asked many unpleasant questions but got precious few answers from the authorities. Meanwhile, in the course of his investigation Trepashkin discovered evidence that didn’t track with the official version of the bombing incidents. This included events in Ryazan, where a bomb in an apartment basement was discovered by local police and safely detonated hours before it was due to explode. The two suspects in that case were released after presenting FSB identification documents. The whole incident was later declared a “readiness exercise” by Russian authorities. Several months later, the co-chairman of the Kovalev Commission, Duma Deputy Sergei Yushenkov, was assassinated in front of his home. Four persons were convicted of the murder. Another member of the Commission died of food poisoning in a hospital, another was severely beaten by thugs, and two members lost their seats in the Duma. The activities of the decimated commission came to an abrupt halt. A week before the October 24, 2003 trial opened, the police just happened to pull Trepashkin over on the highway, and just happened to find a revolver in his car. Trepashkin claims the gun was planted. Three weeks later, he was put on trial and sentenced to 4 years labor camp by a closed court for allegedly divulging state secrets to a foreign journalist. Mr. Speaker, I don’t know all the details of this case, but it looks very much like Mr. Trepashkin was prosecuted in order to prevent him from releasing potentially damaging information regarding the activities of the FSB. The U.S. State Department has commented diplomatically: “The arrest and trial of Mikhail Trepashkin raised concerns about the undue influence of the FSB and arbitrary use of the judicial system.” Today Mr. Trepashkin is held in a Volokolamsk city jail in a 130-square foot, lice-infested cell, which he shares with six other prisoners. He suffers from asthma but reportedly has been denied health care or even medicine. These arduous conditions may be retaliation for Mr. Trepashkin’s filing a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. It is difficult to believe that President Putin, given his KGB and FSB background, is unaware of the controversy surrounding the bombing investigations and the possibility that elements of the security services were involved. He must realize that corruption and personal vendettas within the FSB are dangerous commodities not only for the people of Russia, but for an entire civilized world that relies on the combined efforts of the intelligence community in the war against terrorism. I urge President Putin to order a thorough and honest investigation of Mikhail Trepashkin’s jailing and full cooperation with the Kovalev Commission. While the jury is still out on the 1999 bombings, persecution of those who want to find out the truth does not add to Mr. Putin’s credibility among those in the West who so far have been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Human rights organizations have spoken out, such as Human Rights First, Amnesty International, Protection Online and others. Click here to send an e-mail protest to “President” Putin over Trepashkin’s treatment and to demand his future protection.