Monitoring the case of Vasily Muravitsky (court hearing 02/18/2020)

On February 18, 2020, in the Korolevskyl District Court of Zhytomyr, a regular court session was held on the case of the journalist Vasily Muravitsky, who is accused of treason and encroachment on the territorial integrity of Ukraine (part 2 of article 110, part 1 of article 111, part 2 of article 161, part 1, article 258-3 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine) through his journalistic activities. Experts from the International Society for Human Rights continue to monitor this trial.

The course of the hearing.

At the beginning of the court session, the court drew attention to the fact that despite the notification by all available means, the lawyer Svetlana Novitskaya did not appear at the hearing, the reasons for the failure to appear to the court were unknown.

Attorney A. Gozhiy stated that he also wrote a letter to attorney S. Novitskaya with a draft signed agreement on breaking the agreement with Vasily Muravitsky. The letter was handed to her on February 05, 2020. The letter indicated that due to a systematic failure to appear in court, V. Muravitsky wants to break the contract and asks to sign the agreement or to come to court. But, lawyer Novitskaya did not contact.

When asked by the court whether S. Novitskaya would continue to defend him or whether he would raise the question of breaking the contract, the journalist confirmed that he would raise the question of breaking the contract and his defender would be A. Gozhiy. V. Muravitsky also informed the court that S. Novitskaya did not contact him and that he did not receive a response from her.

The court asked the accused and the prosecutor whether it is possible to continue the trial, despite the failure of one of the lawyers to appear. The defendant and the prosecutor replied that it is up to the court.

The prosecutor also noted that the lawyer S. Novitskaya does not fulfill the obligations laid down on her by the Code of Criminal Procedure, which is a violation and the basis for bringing her to disciplinary liability. According to the prosecutor, the court must oblige her to appear, impose the appropriate penalties on her in case of failure to comply with these requirements. Also, to find out the opinion of the defense, whether their right to defense would be violated in the absence of Novitskaya and, if that, in their opinion, was not violated, to continue the trial.

The court, after hearing the parties and consulting on the spot, made a decision in connection with the failure of Novitskaya, who did not re-provide the reasons for the failure to appear, and did not provide any information regarding the continuation of the contract or its termination, the trial will be postponed. A letter will be sent to the Kiev Disciplinary Commission of Attorneys stating that the defender Novitskaya is not fulfilling the duties assigned to her, according to the contract.

According to information received from lawyer Gozhiy, the defense wanted to file 5 motions, but the court decided to postpone their consideration until the circumstances of the failure to appear of the second defense lawyer were clarified.

Officially, due to the absence of a lawyer S. Novitskaya, 4 court hearings were adjourned. The ISHR expresses its concern about such a formal postponement of the consideration of the case, since taking into account the presence of the second lawyer, A.Gozhiy, at the hearing, the defendant’s right to defense is not violated. In addition, the consideration of the case is postponed solely for the purpose of officially recognizing the termination of the contract between the journalist and one of his lawyers, which in itself cannot interfere with the examination of the case.

However, the provision of Article 6 § 1 of the ECtHR establishes that everyone has the right to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time. In this case, the court admits that journalist V. Muravitsky for a long period of time be under the weight of the charge, which the European Court has recognized as a violation of Article 6 of the Convention (“Vemkhov v. Germany”, “Brogan and others v. The United Kingdom”).

The next hearing was scheduled for March 04, 2020. But this time the prosecutor did not appear at the hearing and the court again postponed the hearing for another three weeks – to March 20.

Experts from the International Society for Human Rights will continue to monitor this trial.