Monitoring the case of Sergeyev and others (Session 08/14/19) 

On August 14, 2019, in the Kommunarsky court of Zaporozhye, a regular session was held in the case of Makeevka’s drivers Sergeyev and Gorban, as well as three employees of the Social Security Administration of Zaporozhye: Voloshina, Khokhotva and Semenyuk, accused of committing crimes under Part 1 of Article 255 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (creation of a criminal organization), Part 5, Art. 191 (appropriation, embezzlement of property on an especially large scale or seizure by abuse of official position by prior conspiracy by an organized group of persons), Part 2, Article 4 28 (commission of a crime by an organized group or criminal organization by prior conspiracy), Part 1 of Article 366 (official forgery), part 1 of article 258-3 (other assistance to the establishment or activities of a terrorist group or terrorist organization), Part 2, 3 of Article 258-5 (financing of terrorism repeatedly or from selfish motives, or by prior conspiracy by a group of persons, or on an especially large scale).

According to the defense, the defendants are charged with these articles (which may lead to up to 15 years in prison) for the fact that the drivers arranged for the transportation of pensioners from uncontrolled (by the government) part of the Eastern Ukraine to receive pensions, while the social service employees filled out these pensions. According to lawyers, such cases are being opened to reduce social payments to citizens of Ukraine living in uncontrolled territories.

The victim in the case is the Pension Fund, whose representative was present at the hearing.

Sergeyev’s translator, who usually participated in the sessions (because Sergeyev don’t know Ukrainian language) did not appear at the hearing. The court clarified whether this was a reason for the adjournment of the session, but according to lawyers, the failure of the interpreter to appear was not a reason to postpone the criminal proceedings, since the key issue was the petition of the lawyers to return to the defendants documents seized during the search, including passports of Ukrainian citizens.

Lawyer Shostak appealed to the court with a request to return to the defendants Sergeyev and Gorban their documents, namely: to Sergeev: passport of a citizen of Ukraine, IDP certificate, pension certificate, driver’s license and foreign passport; to Gorban: passport of a citizen of Ukraine, driver’s license and technical passport for a car.

The lawyer referred to the fact that the defendants during the time of changing the measure of restraint, that is, finding them without restriction of freedom, always complied with all the requirements of the court and the prosecutor’s office, as well as the fact that the defendants, without documents proving their identity as citizens of Ukraine, could not move freely even through the territory of Zaporozhye, get medical care, get a job. Also, for employment they need a driver’s license, as they are professional drivers.

Prosecutor Balitsky Maxim Sergeyevich requested to satisfy the petition partially, referring to his recent involvement in this case and the inability to fully study the criminal proceedings against the accused in a short time.

The representative of the Pension Fund had no objections and requested a decision at the discretion of the court.

The court, having listened to all parties and consulted, made a decision to partially satisfy the lawyers ’request: not to return to Sergeyev a foreign passport, and to Gorban a technical passport for a car (the car was seized by the police).

The defendants will be able to receive the documents on August 22, 2019.

Since there were no witnesses at this hearing, further issues were not considered. At the next hearing, it is planned to question witnesses stated by the prosecution. The next session is scheduled for October 15, 2019.

The International Society for Human Rights expresses concern over the fact that since the release of the defendants from custody without a measure of restraint on April 24, 2019, the case has not been considered for almost 4 months, and the next session will take place in 2 more months. Thus, at least six months the case will not be considered in fact. Also of concern is the constant shift of prosecutors who refuse to participate in this trial.

Recall that this trial has been going on for the third year, which may run counter to the principle of considering the case within a reasonable time and the norms of the European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. According to the ECtHR, requiring a hearing within a “reasonable time”, the Convention emphasizes the importance of administering justice without delay, which could jeopardize its effectiveness and credibility (Decision of the ECtHR of 02.20.1991 in the case of “Vernillo v. France”).

Experts from the International Society for Human Rights will continue to monitor this trial. The previous materials can be found here.