PEN International and Moscow PEN deplore today’s decision by the Moscow Meshchansky Court to convict Kirill Serebrennikov of large-scale fraud in relation to his alleged embezzling of state funds. He was convicted to a three-year suspended prison sentence as well as a sizeable fine and restitution of the alleged damages.
‘Serebrennikov’s conviction is an affront to justice and we call for this decision to be overturned. The proceedings in this evidently fabricated case have served to showcase the fragility of the right to a fair trial for dissenting voices in Russia,’ said Carles Torner, Executive Director PEN International.
Serebrennikov, who has at times expressed criticism of the Russian government’s policies, is the artistic director of the Gogol Centre, a progressive, experimental company known for contemporary productions that often deal with political or sexual themes.
The case at hand, which started in May 2017 when Serebrennikov’s apartment and the Gogol Centre facilities were raided, turned on funds that were awarded to the Seventh Studio theatre company from 2011 to 2014 for Platform. This project aimed at making contemporary dance, music and theatre popular and accessible. Investigators claim that part was never staged, which Serebrennikov has always denied.
‘The investigation and court proceedings have been emblematic for the increasing pressure on artistic freedom in Russia and now, the predictable conviction of Serebrennikov at its conclusion risks having a further chilling effect on theatre makers and other artists whose creativity is hampered by self-censorship,’ said Alexander Arkhangelsky, President of Moscow PEN.
While spending of funding allocated for theatre productions is a notoriously murky process, many artists and intellectuals in Russia have from the outset claimed that the prosecution was politically motivated, framing it in light of the Russian authorities’ curbing of dissenting voices.