A Russian judge reportedly known for his tough verdicts against skinheads has been killed in a contract-style shooting that has shocked officials and activists combating ultranationalist violence.
A gunman shot judge Eduard Chuvashov in the stairwell of his Moscow apartment building as he was leaving for work early on April 12. The judge was shot three times. Sources in Russian law-enforcement said that nationalist groups were behind the attack.
In February, Mr Chuvashov presided over the trial of 12 members of an ultra-nationalist group called the "White Wolves" who were accused of a series of gruesome murders of migrant workers, mostly from Central Asia. The victims had been bludgeoned to death or stabbed many times. The killings were recorded on mobile phones and posted online.
Mr. Chuvashov found all of the gang members guilty and sentenced them to up to the maximum sentence of 23 years in prison. Last week, he jailed another three members of a skinhead group for racially motivated murders.
Mr Chuvashov had been due to hear the case of a former policeman who had joined a radical leftist organization and was accused of terrorism, according to an official at the Moscow City Court.
An ultranationalist website had been inciting hatred against Chuvashov on the Internet and listed his name on a so-called list of "enemies of the people" last month. This post generated a huge number of aggressive comments. His picture and audio recordings of the trials were posted on radical websites where the judge was listed as "a danger to all Russians."
Chuvashov's assassination recalls other recent events.
A prominent lawyer involved in skinhead cases, Stanislav Markelov, was shot dead in central Moscow last year. Two Russian nationalists were arrested and charged with his murder. In 2004, an expert in far-right groups, Nikolai Girenko, was also assassinated. His killers shot him with a shotgun through the door to his flat. Neo-Nazi groups have warned they will target officials unless what they see as an unacceptable flow of immigration is halted.
Alexander Brod, director of the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights and a leading anti-racism campaigner , said,
Revenge by nationalist groups is certainly one of the most likely reasons for his killing. In the past couple of years, judges and prosecutors have begun to crack down on nationalist crimes and take them seriously. It is possible that one of these groups hired a killer to scare others lawyers and judges who work on similar cases.Activists say official indifference and widespread xenophobia have allowed racist violence to flourish. Vladimir Mironov, a retired judge, says intimidation and violence against judges were once unimaginable.
Judges were never afraid of anyone. There was a public agreement that judges are untouchable, that they are the law.Sova, a Moscow-based hate crime monitoring group, estimates at least 71 people were killed in hate crimes in Russia last year and more than 330 others wounded. The group's deputy director, Galina Kozhevnikova, says far-right nationalists are increasingly targeting judges, lawyers, rights defenders, and journalists.
When we worked in court, we didn't have any bailiffs or officers of the court, at best a police officer stood at the entrance, and not in all places. We weren't afraid of anyone.
The turning point came in December 2008, when almost all more or less aggressive [nationalist] groups began openly declaring an antigovernment terror.So, that's the story in Russia, where all the militias are unregulated.
Their logic is: 'If we kill migrant workers, no one cares. But if we kill famous people it has repercussions, we demonstrate our strength, our impunity, our audacity, and it is a good advertisement for our movement.'
And, I'm so relieved that we Americans are protected by the Second Amendment to our Constitution which ensures that all of our militias are 'well-regulated'.