Monitoring the case of V. Muravitsky (court hearing 03.20.2020)

March 20, 2020 in the Korolevsky District Court of the city of Zhytomyr, a regular court session was held in 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 lawsuit.

The previous hearing, which was to be held on 03/04/2020, did not take place due to the failure to appear of the prosecutor Levchenko. The presiding judge read out a letter from the prosecutor’s office explaining the reasons for the prosecutor’s failure to appear and, without asking the opinion of the parties, postponed the hearing.

The course of the session.

The presiding judge N. Yanchuk opened the session and raised the question of the appearance of the parties. The court clerk reported that all parties to the trial had appeared, except for one of the defenders – Svetlana Novitskaya, who was duly notified of the date and place of the hearing.

The court heard the views of the parties on the possibility of starting a case on the merits without the participation of lawyer S. Novitskaya. Vasily Muravitsky did not mind, saying that he sent her a letter of refusal of her services, and even contacted the press with a request not to block the consideration of his case. Lawyer A. Gozhiy said that he did not understand the behavior of S. Novitskaya and was ready to hear the case. The court, having conferred on the spot, since no notifications or petitions were received from Novitskaya about her participation (or non-participation) in the case, and in the absence of information on the measures taken by the disciplinary commission of the Kiev Council of Lawyers, determined: 1. To adjourn the hearing to 04/21/2020 – 10:30 am.  2. Re-inform the lawyer S. Novitskaya.

Further, the prosecutor V. Levchenko once again filed a motion to change the measure of restraint for a journalist from nightly house arrest to 60-day detention with the possibility of bail of 300 non-taxable minimum incomes of citizens. The prosecutor substantiated the need for arrest by Muravitsky’s opportunity to hide in Russia, to continue “criminal activity in the form of writing articles”, ties with “Ukrainian pro-Russian politicians”, as well as the fact that the defense (represented by counsel S. Novitskaya) disrupts the hearing, which leads to delaying the proceedings.

Lawyer A. Gozhiy and the accused himself objected to the satisfaction of such a petition, provided a letter from the police of the Zhytomyr Region which stated that V. Muravitsky had never violated the conditions of house arrest, and he was not obliged to answer for S. Novitskaya’s behavior, present on all courts and does not mind continuing the proceedings. The defense also indicated that the risks stated by the prosecutor are unproven, especially since the whole country is on quarantine and the border is closed, and with regard to “relations with pro-Russian politicians,” he asked the prosecutor to clarify who he had in mind.

After that, the defense filed a request to change the measure of restraint from house arrest to a personal obligation with a request to return V. Muravitsky’s passport of a citizen of Ukraine and an identification code. The petition, among other things, was justified by international resonance and the recognition of the journalist as a political prisoner, the lack of clear accusatory language in understanding the practice of the ECtHR, the absence of the risks stipulated by the Criminal Procedure Code, humanitarian needs (the right to work, the right to medical care), and general judicial practice (cases of Vasilts-Timonin, Volkov , Kotsaba, Vyshinsky).

The court, having conferred in the deliberation room, determined: 1. Refuse the prosecutor in the application for detention. 2. Extend the night house arrest until 05/18/2020. 3. Return to Vasily Muravitsky passport of a citizen of Ukraine and identification code.

The next hearing is scheduled for April 21, 2020. Experts from the International Society for Human Rights will continue to monitor this trial.