24 December 2020
The Supreme Court of the Republic of Mari El took the side of a large family. Legal protection to the family was provided by human rights defenders of the organization “Man and Law”.
The Criminal Division of the Supreme Court of Mari El Republic commuted the sentence against a resident of the village of Yurkino in the Yurinsky district.
A man convicted of illegal logging has been exonerated from recovering large-scale damages and court costs. In addition, the Supreme Court lifted an attachment of the part of the felled forest that had been paid for according to the contract concluded with the forestry enterprise.
Convict or exculpate?
In July 2020, by the decision of the Gornomarisky district court, a resident of the village of Yurkino of the Yurinskiy district was convicted of committing a crime under part 3 of article 260 of the criminal code (illegal felling of forest stand), sentenced to 2 years imprisonment and recovering damages in the amount of 168 277 RUB in favor of GKU “West interdistrict forest management” and payment of court costs amounting to around 20 000 RUB. Also, 236 logs were seized from him, which had been paid for and cut down for the restoration of the house.
As it turned out during the appeal, such a severe punishment was received by the person, including because of an error of the state institution “Western interdistrict forest management”!
Instead of repairing the house – a criminal case
It all started with the fact that in 2019, a large family of residents of the village of Yurkino decided to improve housing conditions — to restore the house. In a friendly family, three children of 13, 10, 8 years old were already growing up, and a fourth child was soon to be born.
To get wood for the restoration of the house, the head of the family applied to the forestry department. They signed a contract, according to which 40 cubic meters of wood were allocated for their own needs to improve housing conditions. The cost of the forest was 25 000 RUB, the amount had to be borrowed. For a large family, this is a lot of money. Let’s explain. Yurkino is a remote village. Among the advantages there is wild nature and the picturesque river Vetluga. But there is no job. Nevertheless, the large family was not going to leave their homeland. While the wife was keeping the house and taking care of the children, the husband was working on a rotational schedule. In the subsidized republic of Mari El, many families live like this.
For New Year’s holidays 2020, a man just returned from the rotation shift and planned to devote the weekends to logging. The forest was allocated, and it was necessary to cut it before his next rotation shift. Together with the foresters, he went to the forest tract, measurements were made, marks were put… But, as it turned out later, the foresters made a mistake in the measurements and, as a result, incorrectly installed sight lines!!! Later they realized it, and the size of the forest tract was reduced, but only in documents, not in practice. The wrong marks in the forest were not changed. The team of loggers, hired by the family, cut down the forest strictly according to the marks. The cut of 8 cubic meters was discovered after the man himself had applied to the forestry enterprise with a request to double-check the correctness of the cutting and give permission to export the forest.
As a result, with the filing of the state institution “Western interdistrict forest management”, a criminal case was initiated against the man for illegal logging. The amount of damage was determined at 168 000 RUB.
The only breadwinner of a large family was forced to return from the rotation shift on his own recognizance.
Six months of despair, hopelessness and complete disillusionment with the fairness of the judicial system
To this day, the man does not work, as he cannot go to work – at first there was an investigation, and in July he was found guilty and suspended for 2 years. The Gornomarisky court recovered damage in the amount of 168 000 RUB and expenses for the imposed “free” advocate. The felled forest was seized to pay off the damage.
According to the convicted man, the period of investigation and trial was a time of despair, hopelessness and complete disillusionment with the fairness of the judicial system.
And no one cared that the family where the fourth child had been born was left without means of support and driven into poverty, it was literally on the verge of survival!
The family appealed to the human rights organization “Man and Law”. The man was helped to write and send an appeal. The chairwoman of the organization Irina Protasova was allowed to participate in the trial as a defender together with an appointed advocate.
On October 19, 2020, the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Mari El reviewed the case, and the sentence was commuted. The court completely released the man from court costs, lifted an attachment of the forest and canceled the recovery of damage in the amount of 168 000 RUB.
The court’s decision has entered into force, the court’s decision will be sent to the Gornomarisky district court.
In the near future, the family will be able to use the forest for its intended purpose. The head of the family is going to return to work with the permission of the inspector of the Federal Penitentiary Service. Then he will be able to apply for parole.
The family members and the main character of this story told that they were waiting for the review of the case with great excitement. On 19 October, for the first time in almost six months of ordeal, they breathed a sigh of calm.
The point of view of human rights defenders: “For us, the most important thing in this story was and is the interests and rights of children”
The chairwoman of the human rights organization “Man and Law” Irina Protasova says:
“For us, the most important thing in this story was and is the interests and rights of children, which no one paid attention to. Unlike the prosecutor’s office, which defended only the law, we defended the interests of a particular person, his family. We thoroughly studied all aspects of this case. These 8 cubes of wood were cut down without intent, and it would still be transferred for personal needs to another family. The real cost of an excessive cutting is no more than 5000 RUB. But, since the felling turned out to be illegal, they counted a huge amount of damage, which, in fact, was not. The government should help people — to explain, to suggest and not to drive into “debt trap”. Our client was not an expert in forest rules, but he signed a contract with a state government institution, where specialists work, who should not provoke crimes with their actions, but on the contrary, prevent them and help people.”
The interregional human rights organization “Man and Law” provides FREE legal assistance.
Our mission is to help people affected by the arbitrariness or inaction of the authorities on the territory of Russia.
If you are in trouble – come to us!