Try a different pair of glasses

NYC artist Molly Crabapple complains that American “dissidents” are being ignored by American supporters of dissidents worldwide.

I suspect that the author has succumbed to an optical illusion. Molly Crabapple was a close and sympathetic observer of the Occupy movement and the trials and tribulations of its members must have acquired a cosmic and tragic significance in her eyes. She fails to discern the obvious difference between the predicament of protesters in the US and Russia. Russia lacks a decent criminal justice system: its courts are an extension of its dictatorial executive. Say what you wish about US courts, you still cannot fairly claim the same.

It has been argued, and I find the argument convincing, that Cecily McMillan’s trial was marred by the judge’s anti-defense bias. The prosecutor’s insistence on bringing the case to trial smacks of petty vindictiveness, and the cop allegedly hit by McMillan comes across as a bully in uniform.

This said, McMillan had the benefit of a jury trial and the custodial part of her sentence is not harsh. Her lawyer plans to appeal her conviction. Moreover, hers is only the latest of OWS-related prosecutions, none of which ended in a prison term longer than McMillan’s (please correct me if I am wrong). In many cases, charges were dropped or trials ended in acquittal.

In contrast, Pussy Riot had been imprisoned for longer than any OWS activist – four months – by the time their trial started. It was an insane show with a predetermined outcome, as trials of Russian opposition figures invariably turn out.

Another contrast to OWS-related cases is Russia’s persecution of Bolotnaya square protesters. Last February, seven of them received prison sentences ranging from two and half to four years, and more trials are under way. Needless to say, some of the protesters were demonstrably innocent of any violent acts but the judge’s sentence was a carbon copy of the indictment.

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