In the Korolevsky district court of the city of Zhytomyr on Tuesday, April 21st, the trial concerning the case of Ukrainian journalist Vasily Muravitsky, who is accused of treason, was opened. However, the session had to be postponed due to the absence of the Prosecutor. This was stated by the lawyer and human rights activist Andrey Gozhy in an interview with “ukraina.ru”.
Andrey, how are court sessions being held under quarantine? Is it done in the usual mode?
“It’s impossible to say it’s the usual one. There is a decision of the Collegium of Judges that has a recommendatory character to postpone civil cases. But firstly we have a criminal case here, and secondly, for what reason is the Prosecutor’s Office not present in connection with the epidemic? After all, here we have a man on trial who faces 15 years in prison. And he has been under trial already for four years now. And the Prosecutor does not come, as he wrote, in order to avoid spreading the coronavirus. What I can say: if you are a carrier of coronavirus, stay at home on sick leave. Or is it no longer necessary to fight criminals and defend people if there is coronavirus in the country?
Apparently, the office of Irina Venediktova (Prosecutor-General of Ukraine) continues to follow the same path that it did under the former Prosecutor General.
By the way, the Swiss international human rights organization “Solidarity Network” addressed Venediktova with a letter. Since she is the new Prosecutor-General and pretends to be a fighter for human rights, not like the previous Prosecutor-General, the human rights activists asked her to pay attention to the case of Vasily Muravitsky. They even wrote it in this way: ‘Please, pay attention to him in person! And let the office of the Prosecutor-General pay attention to the lawlessness that is happening in the Zhytomyr region for the fourth year, where a prisoner of conscience is being judged’.”
And what happened?
“The office of Prosecutor General Venediktova forwarded this appeal to the Regional Prosecutor’s office. In other words, it turns out that human rights defenders blame the regional Prosecutor’s Office and forwarded the appeal directly to those who they blamed. This only confirms my assumption that nothing can be expected from this new Prosecutor-General.”
Maybe Venediktova personally did not know about this letter?
“What does it mean, ‘she didn’t know?’ She is the head of the Prosecutor-General’s office. So she didn’t set up a system where employees would highlight such cases and report them to her. ‘I didn’t know personally’ is not an excuse for the Prosecutor-General. It’s even worse if you didn’t know, because there is only one prisoner of conscience in the country actually. And this is Muravitsky. If Venediktova’s services do not report to her on such cases that the whole world knows about, then this is a minus for her as a leader. But, since she is flesh of flesh of this Poroshenko’s system, after all, she was engaged back then (under Poroshenko) in the previous political bodies, which did not show any special results. I think there will be no results here either. The oligarchs installed her here to cover their interests.
Everything is learned by deeds. And at the moment we are disappointed, and we already understand that neither Venediktova nor Zelensky will be of any use.”
What should have been considered in court today?
“There should have been a substantive review. Before that, all our courts were disrupted due to the absenteeism of the lawyer Novitskaya , but today the court finally accepted her refusal to work after several attempts to receive it. But this time it’s the Prosecutor who didn’t come, citing the coronavirus. It’s just a circus! It looks like some kind of conspiracy.”
How long has the court session been unable to take place?
“It’s been for six months now.”
And all this time Vasily Muravitsky has been under night house arrest?
“Yes, without any opportunity to work and feed a family with two young children, since his passport was withdrawn. Now there was a slight relaxation — the passport was returned to him, it would seem that he could look for work. But the document was returned just when the epidemic began, the crisis began, and there is no work anywhere.”
What does the defense intend to do next in this case?
“We have a number of very serious claims that were blocked and which we have not been able to consider for several months because of all this. In these petitions, we are talking about the falsification of certain investigative actions. And something makes me think that all this circus with constant postponements of hearings, with absences and other things is interesting to someone and inspired by some structure.
We can name this structure – the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).”
“But why, for what reason?”
“In order to avoid shocking details of how the Muravitsky case was falsified surface. But I think that some details should be made public. For example, this detail: during the search Muravitsky’s witnesses were people who, according to our data, were tried and are under trial now, and one of the witnesses is the co-founder of ‘Right Sector‘, who back then studied at a law school – he probably passed an internship. We are submitting a request for this, which could not be considered for a long time.
For a while we (the defense) do not name names, but here are the facts. We can say that this is a blatant violation of the law – when one witness is convicted, and the other one has not yet been convicted, but is being tried in a neighbouring court, which is located in the same building. The first witness is being tried for a war crime. And one of the witnesses, now he is a lawyer in Zhytomyr, who at that time was a co-founder of the local ‘Right Sector’ branch, and whose representatives threatened to kill Muravitsky and attacked him. As you can see, the SBU cheated even with witnesses for that matter.
They chose them in a special way…
“It’s not just they picked them up, it’s just some kind of darkness. These witnesses are those who have been tried and are under trial, who are directly interested in this case – it’s quite something.”
From a legal point of view, it turns out to be some kind of nonsense?
“From a legal point of view, it is a crime, not nonsense. In addition, there are certain things that I wouldn’t want to talk about in advance. But for some reason it seems to me, I repeat – this incomprehensible delay in the case is not for nothing. Especially because they delay when all hypothetical “Muravitsky pool” in terms of time is already either at large with an acquittal, or without sanctions. And here look: the presidents are being changed, the Prime Ministers are being changed, prosecutors, governors – everything is being changed, whereas Muravitsky continues to be pressured by the system!
I just wonder what kind of painful point of the oligarchs was prodded by Muravitsky in order for them to continue to exact revenge on him, despite everything, despite the international resonance… I guess I’ll have to take a closer look at his amber investigation.”
What date is the next hearing scheduled for?
“On May 18th.”
Well, we can hope that the quarantine will be over by then, and the Prosecutor’s Office will no longer be able to refer to the coronavirus.
“They might come up with some new excuse. This delay, as I have already said, may be intentional. Previously, the lawyer did not appear in court, now the Prosecutor… By the way, Muravitsky filed a complaint about the behaviour of the lawyer Novitskaya in the Qualification and Disciplinary Commission of Lawyers in the city of Kiev. And he attached to it screenshots of quite interesting correspondence, in which there are threats and insults. By the way, earlier a similar complaint was made by the journalist Dmitry Vasilets. We do not know the reasons for this behaviour, but we do know one thing — it delayed consideration of the case.”
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