The Case of Ukrainian Political Prisoner Andrey Tatarintsev: “Judge, I Can’t Hear You!”

In the Zaporozhye region SBU officers are holding a person in a pre-trial detention centre for a crime he did not commit. At the same time, the “terrorist” is ill and cannot receive treatment in prison, and judges pretend that they do not see clear procedural irregularities in this case.

He was detained by members of the SBU in the autumn of 2017 on charges of assisting a terrorist organisation (article 258-3 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine). Prior to the conflict in Donbass, Tatarintsev, along with his wife and small child, lived in Sorokino, Lugansk region (now under the control of the LPR) and was involved in a case related to combustive-lubricating materials. In 2015 he transferred some fuel to a blood transfusion station and a children’s hospital on territory outside of Ukraine’s control. After some time, he decided to move with his family to Kiev, where he was detained. According to the lawyer Vladimir Lyapin, the events linked with Tatarintsev relate to 2015, and his protocol of detention was drawn up in accordance with article 208 of the Criminal Procedure Code – “At the time of the commission of the crime”.

I.e., almost 3 years after the events, a person is detained “during the commission of a crime…”

Andrey is ill with type 2 diabetes. The sugar in his blood is kept at 13-17 from a norm of 5.5. On August 8th 2019 the lawyer managed to obtain an examination of Tatarintsev in the 9th city hospital of Zaporozhye (the accused is held in the Volnyansk pre-trial detention center in the Zaporozhye region), where doctors concluded that the patient needs insulin and regular dietary nutrition, as well as dispensation to normalise his sugar level, which is impossible to do in the pre-trial detention center. During the interrogation in court, the endocrinologist of the 9th city hospital reported that the patient is in a state of decompensation, which requires intensive treatment, as well as change of lifestyle and nutrition. Taking prescribed medicine without a diet can lead to a hypoglycaemic coma. And it is impossible to eat 5-6 times a day in the conditions of a pre-trial detention center. In addition, as a diet, the prisoner is given semolina and other products that are contraindicated in diabetes.

Tatarintsev also needs insulin injections 3 times a day, but the isolation ward lacks insulin and a refrigerator for its storage. The doctor also confirmed that Tatarintsev has severe kidney damage – chronic renal failure, which is fraught with the fact that after some time without treatment the kidneys will shut down and will have to go through dialysis or a transplant.

“In six months of such upkeep, from a young man we will instead get a disabled person, whose supposed life expectancy is minimal,” she said under oath.

On December 19th the lawyer Lyapin and I did not have to travel for two hours on broken roads in Bilmak, Zaporozhye region, where Tatarintsev is being judged. Andrey felt so bad that it was decided to hold the hearing on Skype. The accused joined from the pre-trial detention center, the military prosecutor routinely joining from Kiev – from the district court, and we – from one of the courts of Zaporozhye.

Before the appearance of judges Tatarintsev had time to give news.

“The brought tablets were not those prescribed by the doctor. I, of course, refused them because I don’t know they are. And I’m told, ‘Okay, then sign the paper saying that you refuse treatment’. But I don’t refuse treatment, I refuse non-prescribed pills and I can sign for this. Such an answer did not suit them. The doctor came to my cell with a broken glucose meter, measured my pressure, and recorded nothing. It’s unclear what the meaning of such manipulations is.”

As soon as the hearing began, the prosecutor filed a motion for an extension of the measure of restraint in the form of detention. For two years he has read out the same risks – the opportunity to escape from justice, the presence of close social ties in the LPR, his wife and child in Russia, the opportunity to influence witnesses. However, as usual, in violation of article 184 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the prosecution did not confirm the existence of risks either by written evidence or by witnesses.

“In addition, there is a letter from the pre-trial detention center saying that the diabetes patient Tatarintsev can be held in the conditions of the detention facility. We understand that there cannot be the same conditions as in elite hospitals. Therefore, I request an extension of the period of detention for 2 months without the right to post bail.”

Leaning close to the microphone, because communication on the Skype conference was awful, the lawyer Lyapin asked:

“And what did the prosecutor personally do to ensure that Sorokino returned to Ukraine?”

“This does not concern the case,” said the presiding judge Malevanny.

“But the prosecutor said that one of the risks is the close social ties of Tatarintsev in Sorokino, located on non-controlled territory. Here I ask, what did he do to get the city back to Ukraine? For more than two years, we have heard the same grounds for extension. The prosecutor is obliged not only to prove that over time the risks existing during the detention have not decreased, but also to bring new ones. There is no statement from witnesses that they are under pressure. If Tatarintsev is colluding with some terrorists, why haven’t they even tried to influence witnesses in two years? The prosecutor says there can be no conditions in the pre-trial detention center like in elite hospitals. It’s not even funny. No doctor’s recommendation has yet been implemented. There is no insulin or endocrinologist in the pre-trial detention center. What possibility of upkeep? In addition, the prosecutor, on some basis, always states that the LPR is a terrorist organisation. On the official website of the German Bundestag, which finances judicial reform in Ukraine, on 14.12.19 a document was published in which it is said: ‘The court (Hague) does not consider that Russia was a state financing terrorism. The judges acknowledged that a significant number of civilians had been killed in the fighting. However, the separatists did not set themselves such a goal. One needs to specifically kill in order for us to be able to talk about terrorism legally. Ukraine has not provided sufficient evidence of this.

For two years the prosecutor has said that Tatarintsev is related to the terrorist organisation LPR, but it is not recognised as such neither the UN nor the Ukrainian courts. There is a legal procedure for recognising an organisation as being terroristic – the appeal of the Prosecutor General and the decision of the court. Since 2014 our state has not even tried to solve this issue, which means that Tatarintsev cannot be accused of facilitating a terrorist organisation that does not exist for Ukrainian legislation. To date, there is judicial practice throughout Ukraine concerning political articles on the use of an alternative measure of restraint, and no one released from pre-trial detention centres has escaped or violated their procedural obligations. It’s St. Nicholas’s Day. Give a gift to Tatarintsev’s little son and set bail. I believe Andrey and I am ready to contribute the necessary amount for him myself.”

The court gave the floor to the accused, but with all the conversations of the new government about total digitisation, the connection turned out to be so appauling that no word was heard in Zaporozhye, and Tatarintsev spoke for a long time. With the help of a Skype chat with the clerk of the court in Bilmak it was possible to find out that the judges also heard nothing from the speech of the accused. However, this did not prevent them from leaving for the consultation room.

Later, the lawyer Lyapin provided us with a transcript of Andrey Tatarintsev:

“Dear panel, I have been isolated from society and my family for a very long time. A baby grows up without me. There’s no drop of blood on my hands. Every day on TV I watch serial killers and maniacs being released from the courtroom. What did I do that might make the panel think that I would flee the country when my measure of restraint is changed? All these risks are far-fetched and unconfirmed. The same circumstances are read out by the prosecutor from hearing to hearing, and the panel hears only him. Numerous court decisions confirm that an alternative measure can be applied to me, as I ask. In the conditions of the pre-trial detention center, I do not receive any treatment, we all understand that this is impossible in custody. Yesterday, Pashinsky was released for house arrest, who shot and injured a man. This is one example of people accused of firearms crimes and with severe consequences being on a softer measures of restraint. I am not going to hide, I am ready in court to prove my innocence, but in such a state of health it is impossible.

This is everything that the judges didn’t hear. After half an hour they returned, and Judge Malevanny started to read out the decision.

“I don’t hear anything,” Tatarintsev interrupted him.

They stopped, and started again.

“I don’t hear anything”.

They again stopped.

“Come on, go ahead.”

“Well, we will try to fix it. The speed of the Internet is small. We’ll call you back,” the judge said and hung up.

After a minute they called back. Now Tatarintsev could hear everything, but nothing could be heard by the lawyer. As a result, the decision was again learned through chat with the secretary of the meeting – extended for 2 months without the right to post bail.

Pavel Volkov

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