Monitoring of the case of Pavel Volkov (session 03.27.2019). The announcement of the verdict

On March 27, 2019, exactly one and a half years after the start of the criminal prosecution, the verdict in the case of journalist Pavel Volkov was announced in the Shevchenko district court of Zaporozhie.

Recall Pavel Volkov was charged with encroachment on the territorial integrity of Ukraine and informational assistance to terrorists through journalistic activities. The case of Pavel Volkov has been monitored by the International Society for Human Rights since August 2018.

Volkov was arrested on September 27, 2017, and spent 13 months in remand prison. Every 60 days, the prosecutor filed a request to extend the measure of restraint in the form of detention, citing the absence of an alternative preventive measure in Ukrainian legislation and the existing risks when changing the measure, without justifying their existence. In the summer-autumn of 2018, 80% of the evidence in the case was declared by the court as apparently inadmissible due to the violation by the prosecution of the Code of Criminal Procedure of Ukraine and the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. On October 25, 2018, due to the replacement in the panel of judges, the process of consideration of the case was restarted. However, the court board found it possible to cancel Volkov’s measure of restraint. In November 2018, the Swiss international human rights organization “Solidarity Network” sent letters to the government of Ukraine demanding to stop the political persecution of the journalist Volkov and recognized him as a prisoner of conscience.
The second consideration of the journalist’s case took 5 months. Most of the evidence in the case was found obviously inadmissible, and it turned out that during the defendant’s stay in the remand prison on his behalf from his computers, seized during the search, correspondence of a provocative nature with third parties was carried out.

From February 2019, representatives of right-wing radical groups C14 and “National Squads” began to appear at the court sessions. They insulted the defendant, his relatives and lawyers on national and political grounds, demanded Lynch’s trial, entered into arguments with lawyers and repeatedly violated order at sessions.

On March 27, 2019, at the announcement of the verdict, which lasted about three hours, representatives of the ISHR, UN, OSCE were present. The court found Pavel Volkov innocent on all charges. Absolutely all the evidence obtained during the search was inadmissible. The court found that the investigation had violated the legislation of Ukraine and the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms since the moment of actual detention. In addition, the court noted that during the court review, the court was not provided with information on the basis of which statements, materials of law enforcement or other agencies and on the basis of what revealed facts of committing or preparing to commit criminal offenses procedural decisions were taken on the start of pre-trial investigation; why the investigation considered it was P. Volkov who was involved in criminal activity, and the prosecution ignored the experts’ conclusions that Volkov’s journalistic materials do not contain signs of the alleged crimes.

The verdict also states that as a citizen of Ukraine and a journalist Pavel Volkov, according to Art. 34 of the Constitution of Ukraine has the right to carry out his professional activities and express his own subjective thoughts, value judgments, freely express his views and beliefs. The journalistic publications and video files created by him and incriminated to the prosecution in their content do not threaten the interests of national security, territorial integrity or civil order, do not contain calls for unrest or crimes. Therefore, the materials of the journalist are not subject to the restrictions of Part 3 of Art. 34 of the Constitution of Ukraine.

Also, the Constitution of Ukraine proclaimed that public life in Ukraine is based on the principles of political and ideological diversity, which is one of the fundamental principles of life of Ukrainian society, based on the unquestioning recognition of democracy, human and civil rights and freedoms. Accordingly, adherence to the principles of ideological and political pluralism in society is an important guarantee of freedom of thought and speech.

The court notes that censorship is prohibited in Ukraine, the right to openness and availability of information, the freedom to exchange information, and the impossibility of persecution for making judgments are guaranteed. A state cannot assert one or more mandatory ideologies and no one can be prosecuted or punished for adhering to one or another idea or opinion. It is unacceptable for the state to use coercive means to combat freedom of speech, which the ECtHR has repeatedly stated in its decisions on criminalizing journalists (“Lingens v. Austria”, “Castells v. Spain”, “INFORMATIONSVEREIN LENTIA and others v. Austria”, “Jersild v. Denmark”, etc.).

The panel of judges agrees with the arguments of the defense about the presence of signs of inadmissibility of the evidence considered, but indicates that this is not decisive for the decision, which is taken by the court in essence, since the established absence of a criminal offense in the actions of the accused is of priority importance for his acquittal on the basis of paragraph 3 of part 1 of article 373 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine.

The court decided to acquit Pavel Volkov on charges of committing crimes under Part 2 of Art. 110 and Part 1 of Article 258-3 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine due to the lack of evidence of his guilt.

It became known to the members of the ISHR monitoring group that the prosecutor had announced his intention to appeal.
Experts from the International Society for Human Rights will continue to monitor this trial in the event of a referral to the court of appeal. Previous materials can be found here.