As with all legal wrangles, the details are a little complicated, but the essence of this case is clear. Vladimir Bukovsky, the legendary Soviet dissident, has once again pitted himself against a state power. It is not, of course, the old Kremlin; it is the British legal system, which last April charged him with serious crimes: five charges each of making and possessing indecent images of children; one charge of possessing a forbidden image.
Those are the facts. That is, it is a fact that the Crown Prosecution Service made public both these charges and their intent to prosecute Bukovsky one year ago online at their "news centre."
Are these charges true? Bukovsky is pleading not guilty to all charges, which are to be heard in court on May 16.
Last August, Bukovsky filed an unusual countersuit. He sued the Crown Prosecution Service for libel. After several postponements, he received a court date in July. That's two months after the criminal trial which is scheduled for May 16. It is Bukovsky's belief that it is essential to his defense of his reputation to reverse the order of trials. On receiving no accommodation on his request to speed up his libel trial, Bukovsky, 73, still recovering from massive heart surgery last year, embarked on a hunger strike on April 20 -- his first in some forty years. He also submitted a formal application on April 26 to the High Court seeking an earlier date for his libel trial.
On May 3, the High Court turned down his application.
The High Court didn't just turn it down. The court imposed a "reporting ban," a gag order on the series of events leading up to and including its decision! According to this High Court "reporting ban," British press is not permitted to report anything about the application or its contents; the fact that the court considered it; or the fact that the court turned down it down -- until after the conclusion of the criminal trial.
This is quite extraordinary. It is one thing for the High Court to take the action. But why make it a secret?
It appears that the High Court is convinced that any and all knowledge of Bukovsky's libel proceedings against the Crown Prosecution Service would be prejudicial to the Crown Prosecution Service's criminal suit against Bukovsky.
That in itself is something to ponder. There is also the evident and unusual determination of the state to control the news about this case, which is not only reminscent of the dictatorship Bukovsky left behind so many years ago, but it surely casts doubt in the eyes of world witness as to whether this is a clean process. It is surely not a transparent one.
To be cont'd.