Monitoring the trial of S. Ezhov (information on court hearing 08.10.18)

On October 8, a regular court hearing took place in the case of Stanislav Ezhov, a Ukrainian official, an assistant to the Prime Minister of Ukraine accused of high treason. Experts of the International Society for Human Rights began monitoring this trial. S. Ezhov has been detained at the remand prison since December 20, 2017, he is suspected of spying for Russia.

Despite the changes in the composition of the court, with the consent of all parties to the process, it was decided to continue to hear the case and not to start the process all over again. During the trial, the prosecutor continued to submit evidence of the prosecution. In particular, the representative of the prosecutor’s office tried to attach to the case the materials that he claimed were obtained during a search of S. Yezhov (among them was a form for obtaining Russian citizenship, disks with records of information obtained from the defendant’s phone). However, the lawyer drew the court’s attention to the fact that this evidence could not be among those seized during the search, since they are absent from the list of items seized during the search, and there are no signatures of the persons who took part in the search. During the session, it became clear that some of the evidence collected through the use of covert investigations (surveillance of Ezhov) were obtained before such investigations were officially launched.

Unfortunately, this practice — an attempt to add evidence without proper formalization — is fairly common in the work of the prosecution authorities. The purpose of such actions is to legitimize evidence in the trial. If the court accepts such dubious evidence, then they are already becoming part of the evidence base and there is no need to explain their origin. The court refused to accept this evidence, demanding that the prosecutor should “better prepare for the trial”.

According to the European Court of Human Rights, the method of obtaining evidence is an important factor in determining the fairness of a trial (the case Bykov v. Russia). In addition, it is necessary to take into account the quality of evidence, including whether the circumstances in which evidence was obtained cast doubts on its reliability or accuracy (case “Jalloh v. Germany”).

During the hearing, it turned out that in this case, as in many other trials of “political significance”, there is a tendency of “unexplained circumstances” when the word “unspecified” is massively used in the message of suspicion and then in the indictment: unspecified time, unidentified persons, unspecified method, etc. As a result, when it comes to the trial stage of the study of materials, such cases often “crumble” due to lack of solid evidence. But by this time, a person accused of committing criminal offenses may spend several years in a remand prison and may agree to a deal in order to end his suffering.

The lawyer filed a petition for holding hearings in the Ezhov case every day so as not to delay the process. The court refused to satisfy it, citing the presence of other cases in which persons are also in custody and who need a tight schedule of meetings. The courts in Ukraine are really overloaded, therefore, with the help of charges on “non-alternative articles” (for which no other than custody,  measure of restraint  are provided), the investigation has the opportunity to hold the defendants in the remand prison indefinitely, forcing them to admit their guilt.

As it became known during the preparation of the report, among the evidence of S. Ezhov’s guilt filed by the prosecutor, there is even a record of the “interception” of S. Ezhov’s conversations with his wife, in which he told his wife that he did not want his daughter to grow up Ukrainian. Such statements (especially made in a personal conversation) are certainly not a criminal offense and cannot be evidence of high treason; however, the provision of these data to the court may influence the formation of a negative attitude towards the accused. Often in such cases (the trial of S. Ezhov is covered by many media) the prosecution relies on the “media factor”, even to the detriment of the objectivity of the trial. Impressive statements are made on cameras, spectacular, but irrelevant details from the life of the defendant, etc. are made public. For example, during the arrest of S. Ezhov, an officer of the Security Service of Ukraine on one of the TV channels called the arrested person “a rat in glasses”. Such statements create a “background”, the purpose of which is to influence public opinion.

The experts of the International Society for Human Rights will continue to monitor and clarify the details of this legal process.

Expert Council