Taras Zelenyak: Verbal coating for a no less virtual crime (updated)
On top of the rising frustration over the unpleasant Soviet – KGB odour of certain aspects of the Taras Zelenyak trial, as well as the apparent indifference of the rest of the world to this important case, a new source of both exasperation and concern has emerged.
The third court hearing took place on Thursday, 26 October, into the case of Taras Zelenyak who stands accused of incitement to ethnic enmity over comments he is alleged to have made on a Ukrainian forum site.
The hearing was adjourned until mid November at the request of the prosecutor. There are other important points to make about this hearing however I would first like to mention the coverage it received in Ukraine. Almost all Internet publications which mentioned the hearing talked of a “Ukrainian who called Russians offensive names”. In mid September, we all spoke in these terms, assuming that the charges were ludicrous for other reasons, but not doubting that Zelenyak had made the comments.
Taras Zelenyak denies having made them. He is therefore innocent, until proven guilty, and using such headlines helps neither Zelenyak, nor the cause of justice.
It should be mentioned that the FSB saw fit in an extraordinary feat of self-adulation (available in Russian at http://www.garant.ru/hotlaw/files/f12104.rtf) to speak of the Zelenyak case as “proof” of their skills, seemingly forgetting the “minor detail” of court proceedings still in process.
This however is no excuse for Ukrainian newspapers to follow suit, albeit more innocently.
This is particularly true since there is ample evidence suggesting that the username (Novosibirsk-2) from whom allegedly the comments came was, in fact, used at various times by at least two, but probably three different people, and that the comments were not all sent from Novosibirsk where Zelenyak is alleged to have made them. (cf. http://khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1159913863). The “first” Novosibirsk-2 did in fact complain that somebody had “nicked” his username long before any of the comments in question were made.
The previous hearing on 4 October highlighted several irregularities which may also have bearing on this crucial point of authorship. One of the court witnesses proved to have also been a witness during the search and removal of Zelenyaks computer, which is entirely improper. More importantly, Zelenyak firmly denies the prosecutions claim that the computer had been sealed in his presence, and since no protocol documents at all were drawn up at the time, this point is absolutely vital in light of the charges, and Zelenyaks denial of authorship.
With three reports available*, the course of one court hearing is disturbingly difficult to fathom. There appears to be agreement that Zelenyaks lawyer asked for the hearing to be held behind closed doors (or, at least, for the press to be removed), which the judge rejected. There were also 20 submissions which Zelenyak seems to have wanted to give in written form.
One of the reports mentions a detail which may shed some light on the request to have the press excluded. Zelenyak pointed out that the material of the case referred to a work “The Psychology of Nazism” found on his computer, and indeed it appeared in many articles, clearly suggesting that this somehow incriminated him, whereas the work is in fact that of the famous psychologist Erich Fromm. The newspaper which records this not unimportant detail also ignores the fact that the trial is still in process labelling Zelenyak a “Ukrainian chauvinist” in its very title.
One of the submissions called for all “evidence” removed from his computer to be declared invalid since the computer had not, he alleged, been sealed, and therefore the information could have been changed.
Why there seems to be disagreement as to whether the submissions were allowed remains unclear, and one of the reports quotes utterances which are entirely baffling. Most importantly, there would seem reason for doubting whether Zelenyak is receiving the best legal advice, and given the dubious procedural aspects of this case and how it has been “investigated”, this is surely vital.
Or is this yet another unpleasant reminder of that specific stench from verdicts reached regardless of the course of the trial? Even if this be the case, it is no excuse to sit back and do nothing. The smell does not go away, quite the contrary.
* gazeta.ru, regnum.ru and taiga.info (all in Russian - the Ukrainian reports on 26 October were based on the first of these)