23 June 2008

Satender Singh Update: Aleksandr Shevchenko Case Ends in Deadlock

Since last summer, I have been following the prosecution of the murder of Satender Singh with some interest as it seemed to pull together a few of my personal and intellectual interests--the South Asian diaspora, the Russian diaspora, ethnic violence, homophobia and the State.

The trial of Aleksandr Shevchenko in northern California just wrapped up and the result was a deadlock on the major hate-crime charge and two convictions on misdemeanor charges of disturbing the peace and simple assault. Shevchenko will return to court on 11 July for sentencing and faces up to nine months on the misdemeanor charges. The district attorney has the option of re-filing the hate crimes charges after the judge declared a mistrial.

As one commentator at the Sacramento Bee notes, the case demonstrated the limits of where hate crimes law runs up against societal prejudices.

At the Pride parade in Sacramento this weekend, the result provided a sour note for rights activists who were, otherwise, celebrating California's recent legalization of gay marriage.

The search for Andrei Vusik, the man accused of throwing the fatal punch that killed Singh, continues. Supposedly. The FBI has never responded to my emails about efforts to locate Vusik and the US embassy in Moscow explained that human rights issues in Russia are complicated. (Duh.) But that doesn't mean we should give up. Especially now. As I wrote last October:

But let's remember Satender. Contact the Moscow bureau of the FBI and demand that they pressure the Russian authorities to locate and extradite Vusik. If not for the memory of Satender, for those whose safety is still endangered, and for those other hundreds who have died and been forgotten.