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28.07.2006 | Halya Coynash

SOS TO TEACHERS AND ALL THOSE WHO BELIEVE A PUNISHMENT SHOULD FIT THE CRIME

   

Mykola Konobrytsky, Head of the First Ukrainian Lyceum in Kramatorsk, was sentenced in May of this year to 3 years deprivation of liberty.  This was despite the appeal, petition and picket by the Parents’ Committee of the lyceum, many of the teachers and residents of the city.

Nobody, least of all Mykola Konobrytsky himself, is disputing the fact that he committed an offence. His lyceum had received virtually no state funding for 7 years and was badly in need of repairs, and also required simple things like detergents, stationery, etc.  Together with the economic administrator of the lyceum, he “invented” two positions of cloakroom attendant, and used the money allocated for these fictitious positions to pay for the repairs and day-to-day expenses mentioned.  Evidence was presented to the court clearly proving how every last kopeck of that money had been spent.

Should anyone be imagining that cloakroom attendants live it up in Ukraine, we would mention that the sum thus “fiddled” amounted to 4,500 UH, or around 900 USD.  The money was, incidentally, also paid back before the trial.

The court chose to pay no heed to the fact that the money was entirely spent on the school and sentenced Mykola Konobrytsky to 3 years, and the economic administrator to 2.5 years deprivation of liberty. 

There would seem to be grounds for at least suspecting that the prosecutor’s office and the courts were not uninfluenced by certain other issues. According to newspaper reports (http://khpg.org/index.php?id=1153872601)  Mykola Konobrytsky had taken a firm stand against staff and the school being used in campaigning for the Party of the Regions (Yanukovych’s party) before the 2004 Presidential elections and had had a confrontation with a member of the said Party – and teacher - whom he had suggested was using pedagogically unsound methods in calling students who stood with hand on heart while the Ukrainian anthem was being played “orange rats”(!). 

We would not presume to dispute Mykola Konobrytsky’s conviction, but would suggest that there are sufficient grounds for considering whether the sentence passed is commensurate with the offence committed.

Mykola Konobrytsky’s appeal is to be heard on 10 August 2006.

PLEASE pass this story on to as many people as you know - if possible, to members of the mass media.  If enough people ask enough questions NOW perhaps we can hope for a fair assessment of the punishment in this case before it is too late. 

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