After nearly six weeks in the detention center in Moscow, the Russian government deported me back to the USA. I arrived at the Washington DC international airport early afternoon yesterday. I was kept in the dark of travel information until the last moment. The day before I was sent back, I received a note from the US embassy saying that I would be met by my friend Brent at the Washington airport. Brent is my friend that set up the website and blog for me and happens to live in Virginia, just a half hour drive from the airport. This is my first time to the east coast and an opportunity to catch up with my good friend, so I will delay my return to Alaska until February 3rd.
I am now at the detention center in Moscow. It can best be described as a prison. I have two cell mates, one from Australia, the other from Turkey. We are locked in our cells 23 hours each day, with one hour let out each day in a caged area. I don’t know when they will deport me. Russian New Year is a major holiday and I am told nothing will happen at least until mid-January. I am treated well and don’t have any serious complaints. I am in good health and in good spirits.
I am told I will depart for Moscow in the morning at 8:40 a.m.
Monday morning I tried to submit my application to have a hearing on the factual difference between the security guard’s first testimony and his second. I was told that it must be brought on Tuesday when I would also pick up papers regarding the conclusion of the latest appeal. On Tuesday, when I tried again to submit the paper, I was told that it could not be accepted because it was not in Russian. Additionally, I was told the trial would be held that afternoon. At trial, I also asked to submit the paper. It wasn’t accepted, and we took a break while the interpreter translated it into Russian. However, the judge concluded the case without allowing me to call witnesses in challenge of the false testimony, as I requested. The trial ended in a guilty verdict and an order to put me in a detention center. I was expecting to be taken into custody immediately, but was surprised departed and I was allowed to leave. That night, I went back to my apartment and drafted an appeal with the hopes of submitting it before being taken out of the city. First thing this morning, when the library opened, I went and typed my appeal and was pleased to have my friend translate it for me into Russian and I turned it in to the court. In the meantime, the border security brought me my boat and had me sign that I received it. I was not sure what to do with it, but decided to give it to one of my friends, who I thought may be able to make use of it. He then arranged to donate it to the local museum, who seemed happy to receive it. After delivering the boat to the museum, I was met by several men in uniform, who took me into custody, explaining the judge’s order to put me into detention. I was fingerprinted and taken by helicopter to the nearby city of Ugolnie-Kopi, which has the airport, to await transport to Moscow. I am told I will be here for two days while waiting for the next flight, which leaves on Friday. I am settled in now to a comfortable dorm type room, where I am to spend with the two guards who will accompany me to Moscow. They have not taken my phone from me, so I am dictating my journal entries to my friend Brent, who is posting them on the website.
Today was another surprising twist in the seemingly cut and dry conclusion to the long process that had finally resulted in an order for my deportation. This morning I received a phone call shortly before 10am informing me that my presence was required at the regional courthouse to sign some papers. Much to my surprise, it was an appeal from the immigration department requesting that the judge’s guilty verdict and deportation order be overturned. I could not immagine what would prompt them to do so, so it was with great curiousity that I read the appeal. As I read on, I soon discovered that the appeal was based on the fact that the judge declined to order my confinement in a detention facility. I was informed that I must return to the courthouse at 2:30pm for a hearing to decide the outcome of the appeal. At the hearing, I was given the chance to explain the lack of necessity to confine me, based on the fact of my continued cooperation since the first day of my arrival, 4 1/2 months earlier. Upon conclusion, the regional court judge made his ruling to vacate the judgment of guilt and the order of deportation, explaining the error on the judge’s part in allowing me to continue to live freely in Russia without proper documentation. He further ordered the case to go back to trial to be retried, explaining that the entire case would be reconsidered and that I would again have the chance to re-present my case in its entirety. He explained that the process will move very quickly and I would likely be informed on Monday of the time of the trial. I was preparing to appeal the decesion myself, although I doubt they would have granted my appeal, yet irronicly, the immigration office has themselves reopened the door for me to argue the case once more. Now is coming trial number four!