The New York Times: Foes of Russia Say Child Pornography is Planted to Ruin Them

Mr. Bukovksy's trial was stayed in Cambridge Crown Court on Monday, 12 February. Judge Gareth Hawkesworth told press: “I’m quite satisfied that due to the continued deterioration in his health… when it came to the moment whether Mr Bukovsky should or could give evidence we would be faced with a wholly impossible situation. It wouldn’t be fair to try the man in those circumstances."

Mr. Bukovsky, 75, denies five counts of making indecent images of children, five of possessing indecent images of children and one of possessing a prohibited image of a child.

The trial had been fixed for the third time at Cambridge Crown Court when Judge Hawkesworth granted the application to stay proceedings on Monday.

Statement from Mr. Bukovsky's attorney

Maia Cohen-Lask, representing Mr Bukovsky, said in a statement released after the hearing:

“Vladimir Bukovsky has always strongly denied the allegations against him, and continues to do so. He has spent the last three years of his life fighting these charges. However, today’s judgment recognises that he is simply far too ill to be able to participate in the trial process and defend himself effectively. This is the right outcome in circumstances where no trial of Mr Bukovsky, given the state of his health, could have been a fair one.”

Read the full articles in the Daily Mail and the Express & Star

Elizabeth Childs
President, Bukovsky Center
San Francisco
+1 510-547-2589

The Charges

On Monday, 12 December 2016, Russian dissident and activist Vladimir Bukovsky appeared in Crown Court in Cambridge, UK, to face a jury trial for possession of child pornography on his home computer. The files were found by law enforcement officers, who raided his home shortly before Bukovsky was to testify in the inquiry into the murder of his close friend, former Russian secret service officer Alexander Litvinenko, which he did in early 2015.

Many believe Bukovsky was framed by Russian operatives who planted the offending files on his computer. The defence presentation was postponed until July 24, 2017 following Bukovsky's admission to a hospital for pneumonia. He has been in poor health for several years, which affected scheduling of his testimony at the Litvinenko Inquiry.

Regardless of approach, winning a Not Guilty verdict will be a challenge for his defence team. "For such a defence to work there will need to be more than the theoretical possibility - computer code showing the presence of a back door for remote access will be expected," said Professor Peter Sommer, who has acted in a number of leading trials and investigations for both defence and prosecution.

Photo by Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Photo by Andrew Testa for The New York Times

The New York Times on Bukovsky

Foes of Russia Say Child Pornography Is Planted to Ruin Them

Mr.Bukovsky was the focal point of an extensive feature report on Russian kompromat techniques. Whether this will be part of his defense in July is unknown to the public yet.


Courtroom Details

Monday, 12 December 2016 (court is reserved thru Friday 16 December)
10:00 AM - 4:30 PM GMT
Crown Court, Cambridge
83 East Road
+44 (0)1223 488321  (From our experience, call instead. They will help you.)

This is a jury trial open to the public.
It cannot be forecast what day testimonies and evidence will conclude, or when the verdict will be announced.
The Court has blocked out Monday through Friday as probably enough time for testimony and evidence.

(Earlier) The Libel hearing - July 2016

Russian media widely reported, wrongly, that Bukovsky was charged with multiple incidents of personally photographing children. So Bukovsky sued Britain's Crown Prosecution Service for libel, claiming their press release of the charges included the legal terminology "making [and] possession of ... indecent images of children," which encouraged false claims and was wrongly used to support them. ("Making" in British law can apply to copying a file to one's computer.)

A High Court judge considered the libel case and handed down a judgment on 28 July that CPS had not committed libel. But he clarified on record that Bukovsky was neither charged nor suspected by CPS of criminal behavior with children, contrary to widespread reports in Russian media. The judgment will be appealed. 

Libel case documents (see the News page for key excerpts):

Email for info and contacts.

On this Page

  • A timeline of events

  • Press statements from Marina Litvinenko, Richard Perle and Garry Kasparov

  • Relevant press stories and documents

  • The full story

  • Timeline

  • 11 Jul 2006 The Times publishes a letter by Vladimir Bukovsky and high-ranking Russian secret service defector Oleg Gordievsky, titled Licence to Kill. It claims Putin has two new laws that, when used together, make it legal in Russia for the government to kill critics abroad as "extremists."
  • 1 Nov 2006 Alexander Litvinenko is fatally poisoned in London, dies three weeks later on 23 November.
  • ------
  • 22 Jul 2014 Litvinenko Inquiry into his murder announced. Bukovsky is summoned as a witness.
  • 28 Oct 2014 Law enforcement seizes Bukovsky's computer and another broken one at his home.
  • 17 Mar 2015 Bukovsky testifies in a Litvinenko Inquiry hearing. He explains new Russian laws, recounts death threat phone calls to Litvinenko which he overheard, and concludes, "I am pretty sure it was done on orders from Kremlin." This was the conclusion of the Inquiry as well.
  • 27 Apr 2015 Crown Prosecution Service publishes press release announcing charges against Bukovsky: "making [sic] and possessing indecent images," using the legal jargon "making." Russian media widely misreports the charges as acts of pedophilia with real children.
  • 24 Aug 2015 Bukovsky sues CPS for libel over the wording of its press release.
  • 16 May 2016 Bukovsky's criminal trial is postponed until December 2016.
  • 25 July 2016 Bukovsky v. CPS libel trial begins.
  • 28 July 2016 judgment in libel trial finds no libel by CPS, although CPS has now stated for the record that there were never charges of child abuse, nor intent to imply such behavior, because he was never suspected of it. (Documents linked above.)

Statements of Support

Garry Kasparov

Marina Litvinenko

Photo: AP

Photo: AP

Photo: CBC

Photo: CBC

I believe Vladimir Bukovsky was framed in relation for his powerful testimony in the hearing into my husband’s death, which concluded that Aleksandr’s murder was perpetrated by the Russian state. Vladimir has always stood up for the truth at any cost, and now we must stand on the side of the truth and justice in the name of Vladimir Bukovsky.
— Marina Litvinenko, widow of murdered former Russian secret service officer Alexander Litvinenko
It’s important not to lose track of this case, or, especially, to shy away from it because the charges are so distasteful, because that is exactly what Bukovsky’s persecutors are hoping for. Smear campaigns against regime critics are nothing new, and this one is on British soil against a man as courageous as Vladimir Bukovsky, a former political prisoner in the USSR and a leading critic of Vladimir Putin.
— Garry Kasparov, chairman of the Human Rights Foundation's International Council
I know Vladimir Bukovsky to be a man of intelligence, integrity and monumental courage. Given the extraordinary capacity of the Russian state to carry out black operations, and its past and present motive for injuring its enemies, I believe that he is the victim of an embittered Russian intelligence establishment. We know it is capable of brazen murder on British soil. We know it has formidable cyber skills. We know it hacks and manipulates information. Can anyone conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Vladimir Bukovsky has not been set up in a most malicious way?
— Richard Perle, former American Assistant Secretary of Defense

Vladimir Bukovsky's Statement

To a widely known person like me, the press release making such allegations is far worse than any criminal charge. Frankly, I don’t care about the risk of being sent to prison. I have already spent 12 years in Soviet prisons having committed no crime in my life, I don’t expect to live for very long, and it makes little difference to me whether I spend the final few weeks of my life in jail.
Photo: The Guardian

Photo: The Guardian

Photo: The Guardian

Photo: The Guardian

However, what is fundamentally important to me is defending my reputation. The CPS press release is not merely a report (fair or unfair, accurate or inaccurate) of what has happened or might happen in the criminal court. As far as I am concerned, that press release has already done me far more damage than any hypothetical prison sentence ever could.
— - Vladimir Bukovsky, from his writ submitted to High Court

Press Stories & Documents

The Full Story

On October 28, 2014, Cambridgeshire police raided the home of Vladimir Bukovsky, a leading Russian dissident who had lived in Cambridge since 1976. They took his personal computer and another broken one away. 

Bukovsky, then 72 years old, had been seriously ill, yet was scheduled to testify in the large-scale inquiry into the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian FSB officer who had defected, and was providing the West with top secret information on FSB operations and the Russian regime. Litvinenko was fatally poisoned in London, when he drank radioactive polonium slipped into a cup of tea. Polonium does not set off regular radiation detectors. He would have died of mysterious causes, had doctors not run special tests to detect its presence. 

On March 17, 2015, Bukovsky, still ill, testified at the Royal Courts of Justice in London that he had been with Litvinenko when his friend received death threats from former FSB colleagues. Remember what happened to Trotsky, one said. Bukovsky also testified that, as he had written for The Times, President Putin had passed two new laws that, when put together, made it legal within Russia for Putin to order Russian agents to kill opponents living in other countries.

There's a word in Russian that means a lot but doesn't translate well: provokatsia. "Provocation," its literal translation, doesn't mean here what it does there: A stealthy, fraudulent act designed to harm a person, organization, or entire country, while concealing the identity of the perpetrator. 

Did CPS defame bukovsky?

  • Wording seems misleading to anyone

  • Coincidence with Litvinenko Inquiry?

Provokatsia takes many forms: Planting evidence on a troublesome adversary. Polonium in a cup of tea. Bombing apartment buildings to make it look like the Chechens did it. In Russia, provokatsia is standard operating procedure. It's not considered crazy there to believe that politician Boris Nemtsov was gunned down by agents of the United States last year, to cast suspicion on Putin. After all, the thinking goes, it's what we would do.

On April 27, 2015, a month after Bukovsky's testimony, Britain's Crown Prosecution Service -- CPS -- issued a press release that CPS had "authorized the prosecution of Vladimir Bukovsky, 72, for five charges of making indecent images of children, five charges of possession of indecent image of children and one charge of possession of a prohibited image."

Major Russian news services including NTV and RIA mistranslated the announcement, saying not that Bukovsky had been charged for having files on his computer, but that CPS had evidence he had personally photographed children in immoral ways on multiple events. The blow to the state's longtime nemesis was crushing. 

Supporters of Bukovsky immediately assumed: provokatsia. Why kill a man and make him a martyr, when you can make him an outcast whose words no one will ever read again? It's a modern, Internet-savvy version of the old practice of declaring dissidents mentally ill, as was done to Bukovsky in the 1960s.

Bukovsky promptly sued CPS for libel over its easily-misunderstood press release, and went on a hunger strike when the court system refused to schedule the libel hearing ahead of the pornography trial. The court stuck to its schedule.

But in May 2016, the criminal trial on its first day was adjourned until December, to allow more time for examination of evidence. 

In July, the libel hearing ended with a judgment that CPS' press release was not damaging and was not easily misunderstood. Bukovsky may appeal, but Russian media actually ran news items in his favor this time: The judge wrote that CPS had testified they had neither charged Bukovsky with indecent behavior with children, nor had they ever suspected him of it. This was news to many Russians. 

Again, Russian translations were often inaccurate -- "Bukovsky acquitted of child porn charges" -- but it helped undo the damage of their previous mistakes.

At the trial itself in December, prosecutors read a police report that claimed Bukovsky admitted to downloading the images as part of a research project. Yet many believe Bukovsky was framed by Russian operatives who planted the offending files on his computer. The defence presentation was postponed until July 24, 2017 following Bukovsky's admission to a hospital for pneumonia. He has been in poor health for several years, which affected scheduling of his testimony at the Litvinenko Inquiry.