On September 26th 2019 in Kharkov the judicial debate concerning the case of Marina Kovtun, who is accused of bombing the Kharkov “Stena” rock pub on November 9th 2014, took place. The woman has spent nearly 5 years in custody without a court verdict.
As a reminder, the explosion in the “Stena” pub, which was a place for meetings of so-called “activists of Euromaidan”, happened on November 9th 2014. 13 people were wounded as a result of the explosion. Law enforcement bodies detained more than 10 people who are connected to the so-called separatist group “Kharkov Partisans” on suspicion of committing a crime. But on the dock there was only the 48-year-old Marina Kovtun.
The seamstress from Kharkov and participant of the Kharkov anti-Maidan Marina Kovtun was detained by the employees of the SBU on November 16th 2014. According to her, during her arrest she was cruelly beaten and forced through torture to incriminate herself. As a result Marina Kovtun admitted that she was an alleged agent of the FSB with the call sign “Zed” and participant of the “Kharkov Partisans” organisation. In the pre-trial detention center she was subjected to torture, as a result of which her teeth were beaten out and her facial muscles were injured.
The prosecutor’s office of the Kharkov region sent the indictment against Kovtun to the Kievsky district court of Kharkov in June 2015. The woman was charged with actions aimed at violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine, changing the state border, sabotage, committing a terrorist act, leading a terrorist group, as well as acquiring and storing weapons and ammunition (part 1 of article 110; part 2 of article 28; article 113; part 5 of article 27; part 2 of article 258; part 1 of article 258-3; part 2 of article 28; part 1 of article 32; part 1 of article 263 of the Criminal Code). The prosecutor’s office claims that Kovtun was a member of the “Kharkov Partisans” terrorist organisation. In court the woman announced that she had been forced through torture to incriminate herself and that she is innocent. Kovtun hasn’t admitted any guilt since the beginning of trial.
Marina Kovtun has spent more than 4 years in Kachanovsky colony No. 54 (Kharkov), and before court sessions she is brought to pre-trial detention center No. 27. She repeatedly went on hunger strikes and reported that her rights have been violated. The prosecution refused to include her in lists for a prisoner exchange.
Since September 3rd 2018 her case has been heard from the very beginning by a new judicial panel.
On September 29th 2019 during the judicial debate the prosecutor requested for Marina Kovtun the maximum term in the form of 12 years of imprisonment. Given that earlier there was a promise to confine matters to a prison term (since his arrest in November 2014 on “Savchenko’s Law” she’s already served 9 years), a number of Kharkov human rights activists considers that such a demand from the prosecutor is connected to the forthcoming new stage of exchanging held persons.
The “Uspishna Varta” human rights platform gives the arguments of the lawyer Evgeny Olenev, who is representing the interests of Marina Kovtun, on the basis of which he asks the court for an acquittal.
- The search in a garage, where weapons and ammunition that allegedly belonged to Kovtun were found, was carried out illegally. A search warrant was absent, and the investigative judge legalised this action retroactively on the basis of the testimony of the witness Mineyev and permission to access the garage that was signed by him. In the report about Kovtun’s suspicion it is written that this garage belongs to her, and on this basis she was considered the owner of the weapons and explosives found there. If the owner of the garage is Marina Kovtun, then on what grounds did Mineyev grant permission to penetrate the garage?
- The Criminal Procedure Code allows penetration into a private property that isn’t authorised by the court only in urgent cases connected to saving someone’s life and the prosecution of suspects. Mineyev’s testimony, on the basis of which the staff of the SBU entered the garage, don’t contain such information. Criminal proceedings were opened directly on the day of the search (16.11.2014), which means that no investigative actions, on the basis of which information could be obtained about the need for the urgent and unauthorised penetration into a private garage, were carried out.
- The interrogation of the witness Mineyev was carried out before data about a crime was entered into the Unified Register of Pre-trial Investigations, although according to the Criminal Procedure Code, an investigation begins only at the moment when data has been entered into the Unified Register.
- There are no documents or testimonies confirming Marina Kovtun’s accessory to the found weapon. On the weapons and explosives found in the garage there are neither her DNA traces nor fingerprints.
- A search at the house of Marina Kovtun was carried out immediately after the garage was searched, and this also was done without a ruling of the investigative judge.
- The video of the search did not capture the moment the weapons and ammunition were found, transported from the garage to the street, and packaged up. Also, the video doesn’t show any written registration of the course of the investigative action and the acquaintance with it by the suspect. A protocol of the investigative action is made and later signed, outside of the place and time of the investigative action.
- The interrogation of Kovtun and the restriction of her actions and movement during the search was recorded on video. This means that according to the Criminal Procedure Code, at that moment she already had the status of a suspect, but her procedural rights were not explained to her.
- The witness Kosinevsky showed that a certain Mikheenko transmitted through him to Marina Kovtun several packages from where it seemed to him that a Kalashnikov assault rifle was sticking out. How is it known that Mikheenko represents “Kharkov Partisans”? Did the packages actually contain weapons and explosives? Were these packages brought to the garage and were found by representatives of the SBU? There are no answers to these questions.
- The prosecution didn’t provide proof of the belonging of Kovtun to the “Kharkov Partisans” organisation. There is no ruling that recognises “Kharkov Partisans” as a terrorist organisation. Does the “Kharkov Partisans” organisation even exist? None of the “partisans” were interrogated.
- The evidence obtained during unspoken investigative (search) actions in the form of a telephone conversation between Marina Kovtun and a certain Sobchenko is inadmissible since it was taken from the telephone company after the termination of the term determined by court, and the examination confirming that it is Kovtun’s voice was carried out not from the disc on which the sample of her voice is recorded. In addition, the conversation is not about explosives or weapons.
- The note with phone numbers written down in her handwriting was allegedly found in the apartment of Loginov, who, according to the investigators, under the guidance of Kovtun carried out an explosion in the “Stena” pub. Among enclosed to protocols of this note isn’t present. As it is unclear, as the sheet of paper with phone numbers proves conspiracy with the terrorist attack commission purpose.
- As proof of the participation of Marina Kovtun in the explosion near the Malyshev plant, the prosecutor’s office attached a video – removed from her information carriers – of unknown persons who, according to the investigation, carried out the laying of explosives. But the video does not show who it is, what they are doing, and where the action takes place.
- Descriptions of packaging via which the material evidence was taken away from Kovtun was sealed in the different inspection protocols does not correspond to each other in date and colour. This means that during the pretrial investigation employees of the SBU repeatedly created hidden access to her belongings. One of protocols of survey in general isn’t provided to court.
- The volume of things (laptops, phones, video camera, etc.) confiscated from Kovtun (according to documents in the SBU’s office) is such that it couldn’t be put into pockets. But in the video of her detention she has neither a bag nor a backpack. This means that representatives of the SBU carried things to their office and had access to them before the official registration of confiscation. Thus, Kovtun’s e-mail was accessed from her mobile phone, which also had unlocked access.
- Kovtun’s personal judgment of the explosions in Kharkov (they were in correspondence in her e-mail) can’t be proof of her participation in these explosions.
- The unspoken investigative (search) action protocols are made by field investigators of the SBU, who not only have no right to do this according to the Criminal Procedure Code, but also aren’t members of the investigation team. Discs containing the results of unspoken investigative (search) actions weren’t packed up, sealed, or signed by the investigator and prosecutor, i.e., they are inadmissible evidence. The discs are copies made from original carriers, and according to the Criminal Procedure Code can’t be considered in court as proof.
- Witnesses who said that Kovtun was being trained as a “terrorist” in a camp on the territory of the Russian Federation are themselves involved in criminal cases of the SBU, i.e., they are under the control of the investigation. Their words are not documented by anything.
The announcement of a verdict vis-a-vis Marina Kovtun is scheduled for October 7th 2019.
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