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Many Russians indignant over guilty verdict for rural teacher convicted of bribery

August 05, 2013, 16:36 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, August 5 (Itar-Tass) - A trivial at first sight bribery case with numerous similar cases in Russia has now turned unexpectedly into one of the most resounding trials. Artist Ilya Farber, who decided himself to resettle in a rural district from Moscow to teach children to draw the beautiful things of this world, faced his accusers. At first all looked like Farber had a selfless striving, which, however, irritated residents of the village by its strange nature. At that time, he worked as director of the local cultural club, where the building was to be repaired. At this moment, abuses began to be committed in this criminal affair. “Russia can't live without this!” an alleged rural Don Quixote Farber noted.

The public believes that the court verdict is too tough. Particularly, it is seen in comparison with other verdicts for similar offences. The human rights activists promised to take proper measures. Many people contemplate why the Farber affair emerged and why it became so high-profile.

The Ostashkov district court in the Tver region found the Moscow artist and former director of the cultural club in the village of Moshenki guilty of taking a bribe and abuse of powers on August 1. He was sentenced to more than seven years in a high security penitentiary on the accusation of taking a bribe of 132,000 roubles. The court ruled that Farber extorted the money as a kickback from a subcontracting company which was making repairs at the cultural club.

This is already the second trial against the artist. In 2012, the Tverskoy regional court sentenced Farber to eight years in a high security penitentiary, but in November of the same year, the Russian Supreme Court cancelled the verdict and passed the criminal case for a retrial at the Ostashkov district court. The first guilty verdict was delivered by a jury. Only a judge tried this criminal case at the second trial.

Ilya Farber arrived with his family and was bringing up three children in the village Moshenki in the Ostashkov district in the Tver region in the summer of 2010, getting a job as a teacher of drawing, literature and music at a rural school and arranging concerts and holidays at the local cultural club. In 2011, he was appointed as the director of the club.

Head of the rural authorities Lyobov Valeyeva asked Ilya Farber to help with the repairs, which were underway.The abuses in the course of the repairs caused the bringing of Farber to justice.

Farber claimed the repairs had almost not advanced and a building subcontracting company cited financial difficulties. Farber testified that he lent money to the subcontractor on occasions and bought the building materials on his money. According to Farber, the subcontractor promised to bring this money back to him upon the end of repairs, after the acceptance act for repairing works was filed and the payment of 2.5 million roubles was made from the state budget.

The public prosecutor affirmed that the repair works at the club were not finalized, and in signing the acceptance act Ilya Farber inflicted 941,000 roubles of damages to the state budget.

Farber's lawyer, said it was found out in the course of repairs that the contract was overdue and the financial estimates were overstated threefold.

Poliuce evidence showed that at least one million roubles were not used for the repairs at the club under the contract. The witnesses from the workers confirmed that Farber paid the money to them from his own pocket. Head of the rural authorities Valeyeva also stated that Farber borrowed the money from her for the repairs.

However, the accusations were not lifted and one more criminal episode was added to the initial criminal charge. Finally, Farber was found guilty of the construction works not to be completed on time and damages to the state were estimated at 941,000 roubles.

According to some media outlets, the affair of the Moscow graduate from the Russian University of Theatre Arts reminds of the fate of Russian intelligentsia in the 19th century, as they went to rural districts to get closer to rural residents to find their original roots and their place in the world, but faced the misunderstanding of local residents and a manhunt by state authorities.

Ilya Farber established quite tense relations with the residents of the village. Far from all people liked the intention of the Moscow artist not only to teach drawing, music and literature, but also to change cardinally the life in the village, turning it into a resort. Meanwhile, Farber was criticized for the methods of teaching and his behaviour. The artist also decided to come to the rural district to try to carry out some kind of cultural revolution in the village.

The Federal Security Service (FSB) was supervising the investigation of this criminal case. The human rights activists suspect that personal motives are possible in the criminal case. The detectives found that Farber had a love affair with head of the rural authorities Lyobov Valeyeva and before this, he had a romance with a local female officer of the Federal Security Service.

The Russian Presidential Council of Human Rights stated that it will review the Farber affair, the Izvestia daily reported. Over ten members of the presidential council found the verdict unfair and therefore decided to draw attention of the public to serious, as they believe, violations committed in the trial, the presidential council told the daily.

The human rights activists want to find out why the FSB officers arrested Farber and were supervising the investigation of this criminal case. They also find an anti-Semitic statement by the prosecutor impermissible at the trial.

“The Moscow artist, who fell in love with the head of the rural authorities, resettled in the countryside, sought awkwardly and in the strange way to enlighten her and thwarted the road to the local mafia in the construction industry or the law enforcers, for what he eats his humble pie now,” Vedomosti reported. There are thousands of such stories, they are flagrantly unfair, but they do not usually raise an uproar in the society.

“People are guessing who are those crazy people who needed to prosecute a modest drawing teacher, neither an oppostionist, nor a politician nor a breaker of the state system?” the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily reported. “Quite different theories are put forward. This is a row with the subcontractor, xenophobia over his ethnic identity and xenophobia for social reasons. Instead of drinking heavily, as all allegedly normal people do, he was playing different sport games with children, was reading books, a comer from Moscow (which is one of the worst insults in remote Russian rural districts), moreover, he is devilishly handsome. There is even a theory that a local policeman took revenge on Farber this way, as the latter seduced his woman,” the daily said.

“The only thing is doubtless that the court had fulfilled someone’s contract,” the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily noted.

Why was Farber sentenced to a high security penitentiary? the newspaper contemplates. Even if Farber is guilty, whether he is a habitual offender or not? Or he is a killer, maniac or a rapist, isn’t he? Why was he sentenced to seven years in prison?

This term in prison looks particularly groundless, according to the legal practice on similar criminal cases. For instance, former deputy prefect in the North-Western District of Moscow Iosif Reikhanov was found guilty of embezzling 376 million roubles and was sentenced to five years on suspension. The court did not fine the former Moscow official at all.

The media are making public dozens of similar cases.

Moreover, almost all defendants in similar trials were put on recognizance not to leave the city. For instance, notorious former head of the department of proprietary relations of the Russian Defence Ministry Yevgeniya Vassilyeva, who is accused of embezzlement of over 190,000 roubles, lives in a luxurious flat, goes shopping to high fashion boutiques, and only the electronic ankle bracelet, which the law enforcers put on her, was itching slightly her gentle leg.

Meanwhile, single pickets against the court verdict to Ilya Farber were staged on Nevsky Avenue in St. Petersburg on August 2.

Similar protesting action is scheduled at the Chistye Prudy Boulevard at the Monument to Griboyedov in Moscow on August 6.