Zeitgeist of the year: Pedro Carmonte
Runners up: Roven's President and Finance Minister
Other key events this year
Kyle Langley: pro-unions?
Gov. Hope tours the south
"Pardon? There's a drought?"
Are the Burovians a spent force?
The bitter fight over Savante's millions
Gichadia: island paradise comes of age
The Moun's Front legacy
Pataki Communists refuse "dregs"
Castronovia: recog- nition or bust
ICARA's Alphalpha 300 debacle
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An Interview with Pedro Carmonte
By Claudia Verans
I am sitting in the interview room of Rejmungo Prison, in the Lendosan capital of Colchisia. I haven't been in many Lendosan prisons, but I am impressed that it is more friendly-looking that I expected. Lighter, less dark colours, more comfortable seating. Still, I sense an overwhelming sadness in the room, as though a part of the prevailing emotion the room would see has been left behind. It is here that families greet their imprisoned loved ones. It is here that I meet Pedro Carmonte.
Pedro Carmonte shuffles into the prison interview area like a man defeated. He is not shackled, as Rejmungo is a low-security prison, and Carmonte is hardly a dangerous man, yet there remains an omnipresent pair of guards who watch over everything we do and say.
Sitting hunched in the visitors area of the prison, the small Citizen Carmonte looks like a philosophy professor in bright orange overalls. And that is what he is. Arrested in May, convicted June 1st and sentenced, the following day, to ten years imprisonment, Carmonte appears still shocked by the situation he finds himself in, yet with an almost bemused detachment to it all, Carmonte does not, at times, appear to quite comprehend what has happened.
Every answer I get refers to his lawyers saying this or that. Carmonte's future, it seems, is not in his hands, to his mind; he is a hapless pawn in the games of government and lawyers. He is perhaps most like a child who has been caught being sexist: he barely understands the charges laid before him.
Martyrdom is only possible when you do something by choice.
Yet, the lecturer of Asala university is a keenly intelligent man, who would ordinarily be shuffling his way around the university hallways in a ruffled plaid shirt, evidence of a pen that had leaked months ago in his shirt pocket, and pants dating from the 80s, carrying an armful of books and papers. Absent-minded? Yes, apparently so. A devious criminal mind? We shall see.
So, the first question that needs answering is how did he end up in this mess.
"I stated my belief that Cruisianity was correct, and stated my belief that the other religions were not, and I pointed out the differences. I don't consider myself to have been pointing out differences as regards truth. My statement of my beliefs and my comparisons of religions were separate."
Do you regard yourself as having been harshly done by, an inadvertent victim of an inhumane law?
"I do indeed consider myself to have been harshly done by. Even were I to accept the government's position, I would consider the treatment I have received to be excessive. While I acknowledge the government's intent in stopping religion from being forcefully promoted using its power, I do not accept that it should apply to a university lecturer - it may very well be a correct application of the law as it stands, but such a law should not exist."
What support have you received, if any, from the local Cruisian Church? Are they regarding this as an injustice against you also?
"I am a follower of the Papaist Church here, and the Papaist Church is still bound by a 'treaty' signed between them and the old Imperial government which prevents them from commenting on something like this. As such, there's been no official support at all. Nevertheless, the personal support I have received has been quite surprising to me, although the nature of the Lendosan justice system tends to keep one isolated from all that - officially to protect criminals from mob justice, I'm told."
There is currently an appeal called for by the Tribunes calling for a retrial. With the same evidence presented, the same witnesses and the same arguments, do you hold any hopes that your retrial will reduce or even quash your sentence?
I certainly didn't set out to defy the state, or anything.
"My lawyer tells me that regardless of whether the law is right or wrong, I did indeed break it, and so I have little doubt that I will be found guilty again. The only way that this could be avoided is if the Senate strikes down its own law, something I can't see it doing. The only thing I can hope for is that the sentence, which I consider excessive anyway, is made much lower. According to what I'm told, the Tribunes could actually remove the minimum sentence rule, which currently demands I serve at least five years. But I don't think they'll let me go."
Assuming then that the retrial does find you guilty, that the Senate does not suspend its own law, and the court sentences you, once more, to the ten years you are currently sentenced, what other avenues of appeal, of sentence reduction are available to you? If none, what next?
"As far as I am aware, the only thing I could do would be appeal to something called the First Concillium, which is some sort of constitutional body that basically does nothing for most of its time. But they would probably look poorly on any sort of appeal, and would -according to my lawyers- probably just tell me that regular courts would do. I could probably ask the Tribunes to give me another retrial, but given that they've already done it once, I would probably be seen as someone trying over and over again to escape justice, appealing until I got something I liked. I don't think there's anything much I can do if this trial goes badly for me."
Are you prepared, should the state refuse to "cut any slack", to accept your fate, so to speak, as a martyr against this law? Do you think of yourself in this way?
"I don't really have much choice in the matter, so I don't think I could be considered a martyr. Martyrdom is only possible when you do something by choice. Would I do this, if I had the option not to? I don't know, to be honest. I like to think that my faith is strong, but... well, all humans have weaknesses, and I can't guarantee anything about what I would do, sorry."
Senator da Tenio says you presented "the world's religions (compared) to Cruisianity as if Cruisianity were some sort of 'yardstick' for truth". Is this how you regard the situation?
"I don't believe that the senator's statement reflects how I was teaching. I merely presented the world's religions in contrast to my own, without necessarily using my own faith as a 'yardstick of truth', if that's what he said. I stated my belief that Cruisianity was correct, and stated my belief that the other religions were not, and I pointed out the differences. I don't consider myself to have been pointing out differences as regards truth. My statement of my beliefs and my comparisons of religions were separate.
"I certainly didn't set out to 'defy the state', or anything - I consider myself to be a good citizen. But on the other hand, I did set out to state my belief clearly and without shame - I always have. So I'm in a situation where I sort of violate the law as a side-effect of my belief - I didn't act against the state directly, but I seem to have ended up doing so because of another choice I made."
You didn't qualify those statements?
"I don't believe I explicitly stated 'these are opinions' or anything. But I do believe it was perfectly obvious that these were simple viewpoints, not something that was uncontested.
"Do people seriously think that I would expect my class to be ignorant of the fact that not everyone in the world is Cruisian? How could my statements be anything but opinions, given that they were obviously Cruisian in nature?"
The only hope for capital markets in Utania: Hope!