Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
The journalist and blogger Vasily Muravitsky was detained in the summer. SBU representatives came to his place and handed him the suspicion, accusing him of treason, infringement of territorial integrity, and assistance to terrorists.
“Vesti” communicated to Muravitsky, who described his vision of the situation.
“I was detained because I signed a standard, typical employment contract with MIA ‘Russia Today’ (the international news agency). This, according to the SBU, is high treason. The regional investigating department of the SBU, which surveyed me for 1 year and 9 months, gathered different articles written by different authors on all the Internet, and carried out so-called linguistic expertise also here in Zhytomyr. This so-called expertise, which was carried out with an abuse of authority, found in these articles expressions that ‘can kindle national and social hatred’. They connected together these articles of someone’s authorship with this ‘kindling’ (concerning this, the SBU confirms that I wrote under a pseudonym) and the contract with MIA, and drew the conclusion that this is treason.
And it’s like this that they cooked up the charges, without bothering especially even about logic. For example, the article that discussed the blockade of Crimea with the explosion of the pylon of the high voltage line – an event that happened more than a year ago – is defined by them as the kindling of hatred between the Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar people, based on the fact it was written that representatives of the Mejlis participated in the blockade. SBU employees didn’t even manage to learn that my late mother is a Crimean Tatar by nationality, and that I have a huge number of Crimean Tatar relatives in Crimea.”
And what is the real reason for your detention?
“The real reason is as follows: they confiscated my computer where my investigation was stored (which disappeared) on the amber affairs of the Zhytomyr People’s Deputy from the ‘Bloc of Petro Poroshenko’ (back then he was still in good graces and wasn’t pursued by NABU). The SBU didn’t investigate these amber cases of the people’s deputy, but for 1 years and 9 months they surveyed an independent journalist: this reached such a level that the SBU even surveyed repair work in the apartment that we carried out before the birth of our son.
Now during court sessions a group of ‘activists’ come to shout ‘traitor’. The closest accomplice of this amber people’s deputy brings his organised crowd. It’s always the same persons, who don’t even know who I am, and they come at any time – at 9.30, at 14.30, as if they have neither work nor studying to do. Although in reality this is their work.
And of course, the criticism of Poroshenko served as one more real reason for my detention. I communicated through the hole in the court jail cell with one of the ‘activists’, who comes to these political court session as if it was her job. She accuses me of interfering in Ukrainisation. When the ‘activist’ learned that I am a teacher of the Ukrainian language by training, our conversation stopped.”
On what basis are you kept under guard, and lawyers aren’t even given the chance to sit near you in court sessions?
“We repeatedly submitted an appeal so that I can sit near the lawyers during the court hearing. I’m not allowed even this, they keep me in this box as if I’m an animal! According to these crazy charges, I didn’t commit any aggressive actions against people, i.e. I don’t bear any threat to society. And the practice of the Ukrainian and European courts demands to give the client the chance to freely communicate with lawyers. Unfortunately, our judicial system, especially in an environment of frank political persecution, exercises telephone justice.”
Did the lawyers appeal to human rights organizations?
“European human rights activists already act in my defence, in particular, the Swiss. ‘Solidarity’ [a Swiss human rights NGO – ed] filed a petition to Poroshenko, ‘Reporters without borders’ repeatedly called and still calls for my release, the American ‘Committee of protection of journalists’ personally appealed to Poroshenko with a demand for my release when he was in New York for the UN General Assembly. My case is under the control of the OSCE, we wait for representatives of Amnesty International, the UN, and other organizations. The first in my defence was the national unions of journalists of several countries, and first of all my native National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, for which I am immensely grateful.
The whole machine of persecution is directed against me. This is an unprecedented case. And that’s why dozens of journalists, public figures, politicians who I wasn’t even familiar with before – for example, Ruslan Kotsaba – stood in my defence because this persecution is frankly political, and it is visible for everyone.
Of course, not everyone finds in themselves the courage to defend the simple Zhytomyr journalist, who suddenly appeared to be the personal enemy of Poroshenko. But this, I am sure, is temporary.”
How do other prisoners treat you?
“The cellmates treat me kindly. All of them are ordinary people, they call me ‘intellectual’ and are sincerely perplexed about why I wasn’t released even under house arrest. Life in prison is difficult: bugs, scolopendra, poor food. I thank people for parcels. People who I don’t even know brought products. I have huge gratitude. I share everything with needy cellmates.”
What can you recommend to colleague-journalists who have problems with law enforcement bodies?
“I can recommend to colleague-journalists only one thing: if you want to criticise the authorities, prepare a ‘prison suitcase’, and support each other. Victory will be ours!”
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