Monitoring the trial of Vasily Muravitsky (10.01.19)

On January 10, 2019, the court session in the case of the journalist Vasily Muravytsky, accused of high treason and encroachment on the territorial integrity of Ukraine through his journalistic activities, took place in the Korolevsky district court of Zhytomyr (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). Experts of the International Society for Human Rights continue to monitor this trial.

Two of the three lawyers of V. Muravitsky, A. Domansky and R. Bereshchenko, filed applications for the termination of the defense counsel’s powers in this case. The accused, commenting on the reason for the breach of contracts with lawyers, said that this happened by agreement of the parties and mutual decision. In the future, lawyer Svetlana Novitskaya, who entered the case at the last court session, will defend Vasily Muravitsky in court.

The course of the session. Prosecutor Levchenko again filed a motion to change the preventive measure of the accused to detention. As in previous petitions, the need to elect more severe (according to Article 183 of the Code of Criminal Procedure – exceptional) preventive measure, was due to the severity of the alleged crime, the possible escape of the accused from the country, as well as the possible continuation of subversive information activities. The prosecutor’s risk of the fact that the accused could be hiding from the court was argued by the good relations between V. Muravitsky and foreigners and representatives of international organizations. Although, contrary to Article 200 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the prosecutor did not indicate a single negative circumstance that arose after the decision to apply a preventive measure in the form of house arrest (according to Article 18 of the Code of Criminal Procedure). During the stay of the accused under house arrest, there was not a single violation on his part.

The prosecutor also said that the court, relying on the practice of the ECHR in deciding on the application of a preventive measure, contradicts the rules of the Code of Criminal Procedure. According to him, in the practice of the ECHR there are no decisions on the illegality of Part 5 of Article 176 of the Criminal Procedure Code (which presupposes the existence of non-alternative articles of the Criminal Code) and the violation of human rights or freedoms by this article. Thus, it can be assumed that the prosecutor intentionally urged the court to ignore article 17 of the Law of Ukraine “On the execution of decisions and the application of the practice of the ECHR”, which says: “the courts apply the Convention and the practice of the Court as a source of law”. And according to its legal force, international norms prevail over national law, which certainly means that disregard of the ECHR decisions and norms of the European Convention to comply with the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure is a violation.

Lawyer S. Novitskaya, in her turn, stated that the petition of the prosecutor in violation of part 2 of Article 184 of the Code of Criminal Procedure was not granted to the defense for familiarization 3 hours before the case was considered in court. In addition, she filed a petition for the abolition of any preventive measures to the client due to his impeccable behavior under house arrest and numerous statements and support from international organizations and members of the European Parliament demanding to stop the persecution of Vasily Muravitsky. The lawyer also pointed out the fact that according to Article 17 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (presumption of innocence) V. Muravitsky is currently considered innocent and worthy of appropriate treatment.

Vasily Muravitsky supported the petition of his counsel. He stated that, under house arrest, he could not exercise his right to work, could not support his family and contain a young child. He also had problems with conducting medical examinations in conditions of round-the-clock house arrest. Also, the accused stated that in their reports the OSCE and the ISHR already wrote that the prosecutor Levchenko stated that the court should not use the decisions of the ECHR in its decisions, which was noted as a violation of human rights.

The prosecutor commented on this statement, reiterating that the list of decisions of the ECHR without giving concrete arguments that concern the case, is meaningless and that the defense does not provide proper justification. And reports and statements of international organizations should be perceived as pressure on the court and its independence.

Observers of the International Society for Human Rights draw attention to the fact that in the courtroom at each and every meeting there are activists, including representatives of the radical nationalist group “C14”. And each session is accompanied by a violation of silence, provocations and sometimes threats against the accused and his defenders, as well as appeals to the court. But for all the time of monitoring this case, the prosecutor has never stated about the alleged pressure on the court from aggressive activists, which may indicate his biased attitude.

After discussing the petitions in the deliberation room, the court decided to dismiss the petitions of the parties and extended the preventive measure in the form of round-the-clock house arrest for another 60 days, until March 10, 2019 inclusive.

The next session is scheduled for February 25th. ISHR experts will continue to monitor this trial. Previous materials can be found here.

Expert Council of ISHR