A legal battle dating back to May 2014 came to an end today when Russian court sentenced Oleg Senstov to 20 years in prison on suspicion of terrorist plotting. Sentsov was first arrested during a protest against Russia’s annexation of Crimea and was imprisoned for over a year without trial in Moscow for reasons he, and his lawyers, argue are imaginary. (See BBC story here.)
The Guardian has posted the full transcript of Sentsov’s final speech in court Tuesday. Here’s an excerpt:
I actually still hope this will not be my last word. Like [fellow defendant Oleksandr Kolchenko], I am not going to ask for anything from you. […] A court of occupiers by definition cannot be just. Don’t take it personally, your honour!I would like to speak about something else. There was a man named Pontius Pilate. After he had sat on the moon for many years, he thought about what he had done. Then, when he was forgiven, he walked along a moonbeam and said to Ha-Notsri [Hebrew name for Jesus of Nazareth]: “You know, you were right. The greatest sin on Earth is cowardice.” This was written by the great Russian writer [Mikhail] Bulgakov in his novel The Master And Margarita. And I agree with him. Cowardice is the main and the worst sin on Earth. Betrayal is a personal form of cowardice.
A big betrayal sometimes begins with a small act of cowardice. Like when they put a bag over your head and beat you and after half an hour you are ready to renounce all your convictions and accuse yourself of anything, to accuse others, just so they will stop beating you. I don’t know what your convictions are worth if you aren’t ready to suffer for them, or even to die.
I am very glad that Gena Afanasev [a witness for the prosecution who renounced his original testimony against Sentsov, saying it had been given under duress] was able to overcome his fear. He lost himself, but in the end he understood that there was still a chance. And he took a courageous and righteous step. I was very surprised by this and I am glad for him.[…] I am glad for him because he will be able to live the rest of his life and know that he is a human being who did not give in to fear, even though they continue to threaten him, to pressure him, to kick him, to threaten him. But he already stepped in that direction, made a proper step, and you can’t make him go back.
I am very glad for him.I have already spent one year in your wonderful country and I have watched your television. The [news] programs Vesti and Vremya are very good shows. All of your propaganda is working excellently. Most of the Russian population believes what they are saying. Putin is great. There are fascists in Ukraine. Russia is never wrong. There are enemies everywhere. This is very good propaganda.