Ukraine vs. Mekhti Logunov
Mekhti Logunov, 84, a qualified technician (PfD), was sentenced on July 30, 2018 to 12 years in prison. The trial and the conviction took place behind closed doors, without the presence of family, representatives of human rights organizations, or the media.
M. Logunov appealed to the International Society for Human Rights and other international human rights organizations due to claims of numerous violations of his rights during detention as well as during the trial. Unfortunately, due to the decision of the court to hold the hearing behind closed doors, it was not possible for ISHR representatives to observe the proceedings.
According to his lawyer’s information, Mr. Logunov was arrested on August 17, 2017 at 7:15 am by eight men from the Ukrainian National Security Service (SBU). Without any explanation or information about his rights, the law enforcement agents twisted the older man’s hands, painfully tightened his handcuffs, and forced him into a car.
He was then driven to his apartment and forced to open the front door. At this point Logunov was accused of high treason and espionage, and was presented with a search warrant and an arrest warrant. A lawyer was not provided during detention or during the search.
The search of his home was conducted by 10-12 employees of the SBU. Because the suspect lay on his stomach on his bed, he could not observe the search. In addition, he was not allowed to urinate and he was forced to remain in this rigid position for hours. In the case of ‘Ireland vs. The United Kingdom’, the ECtHR described “intentional inhumane treatment that causes certain signs of shame” as torture. As M. Logunov explained, as a senior man and a qualified scientist with 50 years of experience, he found it degrading to be lying on his stomach for hours on end, while not being allowed to use the toilet to relieve himself.
Moreover, there was no need for such treatment; therefore, according to the view of the accused, the goal of this in connection with the threats of the SBU employees that he would be imprisoned for 15 years in any case, was to psychologically break the defendant and coerce a guilty confession (which the defendant has not given). Such treatment, which could increase feelings of anxiety and helplessness in the defendant, is considered by the ECtHR to be degrading to human dignity (see “A.V. vs. Ukraine”, “Ananiev and others vs. Russia”, “Kalashnikov vs. Russia”).
Logunov was not allowed to inform his family or third parties about his detention. The involvement of a lawyer was not granted. After several hours of interrogation at the office of the secret services, a person was presented to him as a lawyer who did not provide any legal assistance to the accused and did not intervene in the interrogation, which constitutes a violation of the right to a defense (‘AV v. Ukraine’). There was also no confidential communication with the lawyer.
According to Mekhti Logunov, he was threatened with a long prison sentence and subjected to psychological pressure during the entire period of remand (pre-trial) detention. At a meeting with representatives of human rights organizations, people shouted: “Logunov, go naked to the exit, off to be shot!”. These calls were frightening and mentally difficult to cope with for the 83-year-old man.
In addition, Logunov expressed grievances about the conditions of detention and quality of medical care (e.g. regardless of the deteriorating state of his health, after inmates called a doctor for him, a nurse would first appear hours later or not at all). In his complaint, M. Logunov describes that he felt this treatment was an attempt to let him die. This impression was confirmed by the fact that prisoners with tuberculosis were repeatedly imprisoned in his cell.
During his entire 9-month pre-trial detention period, he was in a 12 square meter cell, equipped with beds for 6 people. Most of the time there were 7-8 people imprisoned in this space; correspondingly, 1-2 people slept on the floor overnight. The cell was damp (the ceiling dripped water directly next to the wires, the walls and ceiling were covered with mold, and there was insufficient natural light and ventilation; there was also a problem with bedbugs. Places to sit and eat were non-existent.
In the decision “Kalashnikov vs. Russia”, the European Court of Human Rights found that overcrowding of a prison cell and the presence of insects, as well as the presence of tuberculosis patients, even in non-intentional cases, constitute degrading treatment and therefore are a violation Article 3 of the European Convention.
In addition to these problems, M. Logunov also drew attention to the fact that the mattresses used in the cells were dirty, torn, and infested with bedbugs; it was necessary to obtain bedding privately, as there was no other option. Access to washing facilities was provided only once a week, sometimes every three weeks (i.e. if the person was being interrogated during the time allotted for their shower, they did not receive a shower for that week); sometimes one was forced to use the sink in the toilet area with which to wash.
The International Society for Human Rights is extremely concerned about the situation surrounding Mehdi Logunov in connection with his complaints of numerous violations of his rights. At this point, his fate remains unclear, as lawyers are planning to appeal the verdict of the court, meaning that M. Logunov remains in the detention center. Given the age of 84 years and the court ruling, the estimated release age for Logunov is 96 years.
The ISHR will continue to monitor the details of this case and will seek to clarify details of the case.