“Dniprohaz” amnesty stands
The Dnipropetrovsk Court of Appeal has upheld the amnesty granted to former heads of the company “Dniprohaz” who had been charged with professional negligence over a gas explosion in October 2007 which claimed the lives of 23 people. According to the Komersant newspaper, the representatives of the victims did not receive official notification of the date of the hearing, while the “Dniprohaz” representatives were all there. The victims lawyers still hope to achieve criminal prosecution of the former “Dniprohaz” heads.
The Court of Appeal on 12 August confirmed the amnesty granted a second time by a first instance court with respect to the former Director General of “Dniprohaz”, his deputy and the chief engineer.
As reported already, the men were facing charges under Article 367 § 2 of the Criminal Code, this being for professional negligence with grave consequences. On 20 January 2008 the Zhovtnevy District Court in Dnipropetrovsk granted the three men an amnesty without bringing the case to its conclusion on the grounds that the men had underage children, had never been convicted of a crime and because the crime was classified as not grave. The victims of the disaster were outraged and lodged an appeal. On 22 April the Dnipropetrovsk Court of Appeal revoked the court ruling awarding an amnesty, and said the case should be brought to conclusion before any amnesty was applied. The case was returned to the Zhovtnevy District Court which on 16 June again amnestied the three men. This ruling has now been upheld by the same court which overturned the last ruling.
One of the lawyers of the men accused stated that in revoking the amnesty, the Court of Appeal had the first time not taken into account the Supreme Courts explanation stating that an amnesty can be applied before a verdict is handed down.
The lawyer for the victims, however, told the newspaper that the hearing on 12 August had been in the absence of the claimant, and that he had learned of it from journalists. According to Victoria Yehorova, whose daughter was killed in the explosion, neither she nor the other claimants (around 15 people) received any official notification of the court hearing. However she was at the hearing having been informed by another victim who had been phoned from the court and told to tell others.
Although the amnesty has now come into force, the case has not yet been laid to rest. In the ruling from 16 June the judge stated that the criminal file on the former heads of “Dniprohaz” had been separated from the general case initiated over the explosion and that the criminal investigation had yet to established the course. The lawyers for the victims and their families believe that within the framework of this case it is possible to have the charges reclassified under an article which does not fall under the amnesty.
New information from: http://www.kommersant.ua/doc.html?docId=1220801