The Moscow city department of culture will not renew Kirill Serebrennikov’s contract as the director of the Gogol Center. The contract ends on February 28. Serebrennikov was appointed as director of the Gogol Theater in 2012 and reopened the venue 2014 as the Gogol Center. The Serebrennikov case started in May 2017, when the Center was raided by the Russian Investigative Committee, followed by a “theatre trial” over 3 years (see also our several posts).
The Central Khartoum Primary Court issued a verdict against five young artists to two months imprisonment and a fine of 5,000 SDG (equivalent of 90,9 USD). On August 10th, neighbors of Civic Lab network, an organization in Khartoum where rehearsal of a play was taking place, complained about too much noise. The complaint increased to physical attacks to the artists and the staff of the Civic Lab. When the police arrived they arrested the artists and did not stop the neighbors to beat them with sticks and to throw stones at them. The artists are: Duaa Tarig Mohamed Ahmed (Program and Office Manage), Abdel Rahman Mohamed Hamdan, Ayman Khalaf Allah Mohamed Ahmed, Ahmed Elsadig Ahmed Hammad, Hajooj Mohamed Haj Omar (aka Hajooj Kuka, awarded filmmaker). These artists have spent the last two years creating art to support Sudan’s quest for freedom and democracy. They have created hundreds of murals and films in the public service, supported the Prime Minister’s office and Sudan National Television, and conducted hundreds of civic engagement workshops across Sudan through their work at the Civic Lab network. Duaa, along with 4 of her colleagues were charged separately while another 6 artists are awaiting a verdict on Sunday 20th September. The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africe (SIHA) is extremliy concerned that “The legal framework, legal procedures and the articles of the law itself are designed to criminalise and prosecute civilians, particularly women and minorities. Women and activists are still an active target of the law enforcement in Sudan, and the criminalisation of women is legally enabled.”
ACAR states that artists are at the vanguard of positive change in Sudan. They have to be protected from violent mobs. The civilian led government has to to investigate the judges and police involved in this case.
Security officials in Bagdad announced today, that German curator Hella Mewis was released at 6:25 a.m. (03.25 UTC/GMT) in a security operation at Rusafa, eastern part of Baghdad. Iraqi authorities did not give any information about who was behind the kidnapping. No one was arrested during the operation.
Hella is presently under the protection of the German embassy in Baghdad. She is already the sixth foreigner to be abducted in the Iraqi capital this year and dozens of activists have been kidnapped in recent months.
The cultural manager and curator Hella Mewis has been active in German-Iraqi cultural exchange for many years. At the Berlin based network for cultural reconstruction in Iraq, she was involved in numerous initiatives and projects that were intended to enable the Iraqi cultural scene to join the international cultural exchange after decades of isolation through war and terror. Some of these could also be realized with the help of the ITI. Since 2012 she continued her work from Baghdad. She built up the cultural centre “Beit Tarkib” under the most difficult conditions and got support by the Goethe-Institut for festivals, concerts, readings, workshops and exhibitions. Hella was, as usual, travelling by bicycle when she was kidnapped by armed men from two cars near the cultural centre in the evening of July 20. It is speculated that the perpetrators are close to the Hezbollah militia. The German Foreign Office has set up a crisis management team. Media and networks are following the case. #hellamewis, #freehella
On Friday, June 26, the Moscow judge gave Kirill Serebrennikov a suspended sentence to three years probation and a three-year ban on leading any state-backed cultural institution in Russia. However, the judge said that the defendants would be required to repay nearly 129 million rubles in compensation for the money allegedly embezzled. Co-defendants Yury Itin and Konstantin Malobrodsky were also found guilty of conspiring to mislead the culture ministry for “personal enrichment” and also sentenced to probation. The fourth defendant, Sofya Apfelbaum, was convicted of negligence.
Artists around the world expressed their solidarity, an online petition in Germany got 57.000 subscribers. The representative of the EU foreign service Peter Stano and Germany’s Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance Bärbel Kofler expressed their demand for a fair and transparent trial.
The case of the “Platform” Projekt at the Gogol Center’s “Seventh Studio” Kirill Serebrennikov has been going on for more than three years (see also our former posts at ACAR). On June 22 the judicial investigation has ended. The state prosecution considered proven guilty persons involved in the case of Serebrennikov, asks to plead Kirill Serebrennikov, Alexey Malobrodsky, Yury Itin and Sophia Apfelbaum and sentence them with following punishments: 6 years of imprisonment in a penal colony with a fine of 800 thousand rubles for Serebrennikov , 5 years for Malobrodsky and 4 years for Itin and Apfelbaum as well. At the same time the prosecution corrects the amount of damage from 133 million 237 thousand rubles to 128 million 974 thousand rubles. The court will pass a verdict in the coming days.
The Gogol Center has published Kirill Serebrennikov’s speech at the Meshchansky court on June 22nd: Platform Lessons