Monitoring the case of V. Muravitsky (court hearing 01.27.2020)

On January 27, 2020, in the Korolevskiy 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 of 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 course of the hearing.

At the beginning of the court session, the issue of the absence of lawyer S. Novitskaya was raised. She did not appear at the hearing without warning the court. The accused said that now lawyer A. Gozhi will represent his interests in court, and the contract with S. Novitskaya will be terminated. The court again drew V. Muravitsky’s attention to the fact that the refusal of the defense counsel was carried out in his presence and therefore S. Novitskaya should arrive at the next hearing or confirm the information about the termination of the contract in writing and submit it to the court. The prosecutor asked the court to avoid further claims by the defense and not to delay the trial due to the failure of one of the lawyers to appear, in the event of repeated failure to appear without a good reason, bring S.Novitskaya to justice.

Despite the fact that the accused was not deprived of defense and the prosecutor had no objection to the continuation of the trial (since the right to defense was not violated), the court decided to transfer it to the next agreed date and consider only the petitions filed.

Due to the fact that the term of the selected measure of restraint is ending, the prosecutor filed a petition for the selection of the measure of restraint to V. Muravitsky in the form of detention with the possibility of making a bail. The prosecutor argued his request, as in previous times, by the gravity of the alleged crimes, the risk of hiding from the court, and ties to Russian politicians. He also indicated that accused’s social connections are not sustainable and exist only with his family.

Attorney A. Gozhiy objected to the satisfaction of this application arguing his objection by the lack of evidence of risks indicated by the prosecutor. Emphasizing that for the entire time the defendant was under house arrest, no violations were recorded on his part. He confirmed his argument with answers to inquiries to law enforcement agencies, which indicated that there were no recorded violations of house arrest by the accused. The lawyer also filed a motion in which he asked to change the measure of restraint of the accused to a personal obligation. V. Muravitsky filed a petition in which he requested not to apply any measure of restraint.

After the meeting, the court, taking into account all the circumstances, came to the conclusion that at this stage of the judicial review, in order to avoid attempts to evade the court, a measure of restraint in the form of house arrest at night would be sufficient. During the stay of the accused under house arrest, no violations by the accused were recorded, and the risks indicated by the prosecutor were not documented, therefore the court sees no reason to satisfy the prosecutor’s request. This position of the court is fully consistent with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, which insists that only a reference to the relevant rule of law without specifying grounds justifying the allegation that the person may be absconding, interfere with the proceedings or commit new crimes is not sufficient to decide on the applicant’s detention (“Boychenko v. Moldova”).

The court extended the previously selected measure of restraint in the form of a night house arrest to V. Muravitsky until March 28, 2020.

The next hearing is scheduled for February 18, 2020. Experts from the International Society for Human Rights will continue to monitor this trial.