Monitoring the case of V. Muravitsky (court hearing 11.29.2019)

On November 29, 2019, in the Korolevsky  District Court 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 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 session.

At the beginning of the trial, for interrogation as a witness, the forensic investigator M. Soroka was invited. Among other questions, the lawyer asked the investigator a question regarding the evidence, namely the CD with saved Internet pages, on which there were texts allegedly written by V. Muravitsky and published in an online publication. The lawyer drew the court’s attention to the fact that nowhere is indicated where the web pages were stored, which were later reviewed and systematized by the investigator, and by whom they were recorded and included in the case file. The investigator could not explain this, saying that he did not remember.

The prosecutor provided the court with a smartphone and an external hard drive seized during the searches conducted at the address of Muravitsky’s residence, as well as files stored on the hard drive, the date of which was 2014.

The prosecution provided the results of a psychological examination and read its results. The defense did not object to the inclusion of this evidence, but noted that the results of this examination contradict themselves, and that the expert himself is not a forensic expert.

Due to the fact that the term of the selected measure of restraint is ending, the prosecutor filed a petition for the measure of restraint in the form of detention with the possibility of making a bail in the amount of 300 living wages of individuals’ incomes. The prosecutor again argued his request with the severity of the alleged crimes, the risks of absconding from the court, and ties with Russian politicians. He also indicated that accused social connections are not sustainable and exist only with his family.

The lawyer objected to the satisfaction of this request and filed her own, in which she asked not to apply any measure of restraint to Muravitsky. During his time under house arrest, no violations were recorded on his part; he has a family, two young children and property. The lawyer also indicated that the reasonable terms of keeping the accused under house arrest were violated.

After the meeting, the court, taking into account the gravity of the alleged crime, the identity of the accused, the marital status, came to the conclusion that at this stage of the judicial review, the defendant’s fulfillment of his duties specified in Article 177 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of Ukraine can be ensured by a measure of restraint in the form of a house arrest at night time. During the stay of the accused under round-the-clock house arrest, no violations were recorded and the court did not find reasons to satisfy the prosecutor’s request. The measure of restraint was elected until January 27, 2020.

The International Society for Human Rights has repeatedly pointed out the case law of the ECtHR, which states that there is a presumption in favor of release (paragraph 39 “Khairedinov v. Ukraine”). Also, presumption is provided for in paragraph 3 of Article 176 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which states that a court refuses to apply a measure of restraint if the prosecutor does not prove that a milder measure of restraint cannot prevent the accused from violating his procedural obligations. In this case, the ISHR observer notes a positive trend in the journalist’s case – mitigation of the measure of restraint due to the proper performance of his procedural duties, as well as the lack of justification by the prosecutor of the need to apply an exceptional measure of restraint to the accused in the form of detention.

The next session is scheduled for December 10, 2019. Experts from the International Society for Human Rights will continue to monitor this trial.