Monitoring the case of V. Muravitsky (court hearing 10/03/2019)

October 3, 2019 in the Korolevskiy 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 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.

The court continued to examine the written evidence and materials of the prosecution obtained as a result of covert investigative actions. The prosecutor provided screenshots of the computer screen as evidence, according to the prosecutor’s office, which belonged to the accused. Screenshots of correspondence with a person which, according to the prosecutor’s office, is living in the territory of the Russian Federation, namely with the editor of the Media “Politnavigator”. According to the prosecutor, V. Muravitsky received payment from this person for the his articles. The defendant objected to the inclusion of this protocol, considering it an unacceptable evidence and filed a motion, which was supported by the lawyer. After consulting on the spot, the court decided to refuse to declare the evidence inadmissible and attached it to the case file.

The prosecutor filed, as evidence, petitions to the investigating judge for permission to conduct covert investigative actions and an order to carry them out. Among them, permission to visually observe a person, take photographs, acquire information from electronic information systems, e-mail, audio and video control over the place of residence of the accused. The defense side commented that all these requests do not contain permission to interfere in private communication. Consequently, the investigative activities were carried out in violation of the constitutional rights of the accused. The prosecutor commented that these are procedural documents that confirm the conduct of the investigation, and in themselves do not contain evidence. The court attached this evidence.

Further, the prosecutor wanted to file another inspection protocol with the disc, but the defense insisted on examining it together with a technical specialist who could explain how the files were written to the disc and how the screenshots were created, since the defense has questions regarding their authenticity and that the recording date of the disc does not match the date the protocol was written. The court took into account the fact that the experts had already been summoned to the court, but did not come, and decided to postpone the consideration of the evidence submitted by the prosecutor with the discs until the next session, to which a technical specialist and investigator will be invited to provide clarifications. In connection with the expiration of the term of the measure of restraint before the date of the next court hearing, the prosecutor filed a motion to change the measure of restraint of the accused from round-the-clock house arrest to detention. The prosecutor’s argument was based on the seriousness of the accusation, the risks of absconding from the court and the possibility of leaving the country and moving to the Russian Federation.

The defense also filed a motion to change the measure of restraint from round-the-clock house arrest to a personal obligation. Arguing their petition with the fact that most of the evidence has already been investigated and filed, there are no witnesses or victims in the case, no material damage was claimed in the indictment and there are no risks. A round-the-clock house arrest deprives V. Muravitsky of receiving full medical care, in addition, he has two young children and, due to house arrest, is unable to work.

Vasily Muravitsky also filed a petition in which he asked the court to change the measure of restraint from round-the-clock house arrest to less strict, namely personal obligation, or night house arrest, bail. The main arguments are the need for treatment of the musculoskeletal system and support for the family. The accused pointed out the absence of violations during his stay under round-the-clock house arrest as the basis for the petition.

The defendant filed another motion regarding an official letter from the European Parliament inviting him to speak at a hearing on freedom of speech in Ukraine and Eastern Europe as a speaker and expert. The hearing will take place in the European Parliament building in Brussels, Belgium. V. Muravitsky asked the court for permission to stay outside Ukraine for three days. He also asked for permission to apply for a biometric passport, with his subsequent delivery after a trip to the migration service. Travel and accommodation will be provided at the expense of the European Parliament and the European Green Faction.

The prosecutor objected to the satisfaction of the requests of the accused and the defense.

After the break, the court, guided by Articles 176-178, 181, 194, 331 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of Ukraine, decided to leave the measure of restraint in the form of a round-the-clock house arrest for a period of 60 days until December 01, 2019. V. Muravitsky’s request for the possibility of traveling abroad was dismissed.

A similar situation with the extension of house arrest was noted by the ECtHR in the case of “Buzazi v. Moldova”, where in paragraph 121 it was stated that “in the absence of any reason to believe that the applicant was hiding or interfering in the investigation, the court ordered his house arrest. The decisions to appoint and extend the period of house arrest were not based on any reasons in support of such a measure, except for the seriousness of the crime imputed to him,” which the ECtHR defined as a violation of the European Convention.

The next session is scheduled for October 18, 2019. Experts from the International Society for Human Rights will continue to monitor this trial.