13.12.2002 | Volodymir Pritula, Simferopol
Radio ’Liberty’

’This system, in the framework of the operating laws, enables officials to misuse their power’


On 10 January the Zaliznichny district court of Simferopol approved the decision about conditional pre-term release of Sergey Potamanov, the former editor of the radio company ’Feniks’ situated in the Leninskiy district of the Crimea. The Crimean journalist was released only next night, when all, who came to meet him – relatives, friends and colleagues – dispersed. S. Potamanov was condemned to 5 years of incarceration in December 2000 and spent 18 months behind the bars. He declared that he would fight for the complete court acquittal. The journalist had been accused of crimes according to 4 articles of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, including spiteful hooliganism and storage of firearms and ammunition. Potamanov himself considers that his case was falsified by the initiative of the local authorities, whom he acutely criticized in his articles. According to him, the court disregarded the numerous proofs of his innocence, as well as the mitigating circumstance that he has five minor children. After public protests the prosecutor’s office of the Crimea suspended this decision and the Supreme Court of the Crimea diminished the prison term down to three months.

Now the appeal of Sergey Potamanov is being considered in the appellation court and the European Court of human rights. The journalist told that he would do his best not only for his rehabilitation, but also to achieve some changes in the Ukrainian penitentiary system, which does not satisfy the norms of a civilized democratic country. ’I see two actual problems. The first is to cancel the verdict because of the procedural violations made in the court. The second problem is to start active fighting against violations in the work of the existing penitentiary system, since my consciousness and journalist’s dignity will not permit me to stand aside’, Sergey Potamanov said.

According to his words, the state of the Ukrainian penitentiary system is abhorring: ’This system, in the framework of the operating laws, enables officials to misuse their power. Being at large I never could fancy that such situation can exist, and if someone told me about this, I would not believe. But after I experienced all this on my own skin, I can prove that. I want to do my best to change the entire system – both as a journalist and as a human rights protector. I intend to do this until I succeed’.

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