Monitoring of the trial of A. Melnik, A. Kryzhanovsky, I. Pasichny, I. Kunik (Court hearings 18.05.18)
May 18, 2018 in the Court of Appeal of the Poltava region held a regular review of the issue of changing the territorial jurisdiction of the case of Alexander Melnik, head of the TV company “Visit”, who is one of four accused (along with A. Kryzhanovsky, I. Pasichny, I.Kunik) in the murder of the mayor of Kremenchug A. Babayev and the judge of the Kremenchug court A. Lobodenko.
The reason for this hearing was a request for a change in the territorial jurisdiction of the case due to the insufficient number of judges and the inability to assemble a panel.
In the petition it was stated that on May 7, the criminal proceedings were filed in the Gadyatsky district court of the Poltava region, but the judges, who were selected by the automated document circulation system, are currently on vacation. Referring to Article 34 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine, the Gadyatsky District Court brought the case back to the Court of Appeal.
The parties unanimously supported the petition for a change of territorial jurisdiction and expressed doubt as to the existence of a sufficient number of judges in the Gadyatsky court to consider this case, taking into account its complexity and duration. Also, from the side of the defense, a petition was submitted to transfer the case to the Supreme Court for the determination of the court of first instance (in this case) in the nearby districts of the Poltava region. The lawyers motivate their petition with transport complications, as the participants in the process are in Kremenchug, Poltava and Kharkov, and it’s quite difficult to get to the Gadyatsky court.
Due to repeated appeal to the Court of Appeal about the change of territorial jurisdiction, lawyers again raised the issue of artificial delaying of the case. Attention was focused on the fact that de facto the matter had not been considered for 10 months, but was only transferred from one court to another. Experts of the International Society for Human Rights are concerned about this delay in the process and noted that the European Court of Human Rights expresses concern if the court does not raise the issue of whether the case is considered to be beyond reasonable time limits (Moiseyev v. Russia). And in this case, for more than 3.5 years, the issue is not raised not only regarding the reasonableness of the terms, but also on the issue of changing the restraint to a less strict one than detention.
On June 9, 2018, the term of detention ends. With considering previous decisions of the court and opposition of local authorities to attempts to change the restraint (in 2017, with the participation of the Poltava regional council, the judge who decided to send the defendants under house arrest was de facto suspended from the case), one cannot expect either a mitigation of the measure of restraint or commencement of the case (taking into account the need to form a jury of Gadiatsky court).
Despite the opinion of the parties, the Court of Appeal decided to return the criminal proceedings to the Gadyatsky court, citing the fact that the necessary number of judges will return from vacation and it will be possible to assemble the panel. The petition of the lawyer of A. Melnik about the transfer of the case to the Supreme Court was denied. It is worth noting that for the “uninterrupted” continuation of the process, the court must be able to form a panel of four judges (with one spare). If there are already problems in the Gadyatsky Court with a shortage of judges, then where are the guarantees that a similar situation will not occur in the future? The previous court was already forced to abandon the continuation of the trial, as it did not have the opportunity to form panel, and this has already prolonged the process for almost six months. The new decision of the Court of Appeal for the same reasons may lead to further prolongation of an already extremely long process.
Experts of the International Society for Human Rights will continue monitoring and clarifying the details of this litigation. The previous materials can be found here.