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15.01.2011

If at first the law is against you …

   

It would seem that the saga of a supposed “case against” journalist and human rights activist Dementiy Bily has not been laid to rest. On 14 September Dementiy was pushed out of the theatre where the Mayor was giving his “report” to a closed audience and beaten up.  Dementiy Bily, who is the Editor of the newspaper Free Choice and Head of the Kherson Regional Branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, was himself admitted only after the Deputy Head of the Regional Administration intervened.  Seeing empty places and knowing how many people were not being admitted, he grabbed a microphone and began calling on the Mayor to instruct that all those wishing to hear his report be admitted to the hall.  Instead, three men shoved Dementiy out into the foyer, where one proceeded to inflict blows to his face.

The police did nothing until Dementiy’s camera hit the main assailant, businessman Viktor Shevchuk, on the forehead as he tried to break free.  They then drew up a protocol against Dementiy Bily, not the man hitting him.

As a result both ended up in hospital and both complained to the police.  Shevchuk’s complaint was given a green light and Dementiy Bily on the next day had to give an explanation and was charged with an administrative offence.

Dementiy Bily had to turn to the Prosecutor once again after his complaint to the police got “mislaid”

As reported here, in December 2010 the Kherson Regional Court of Appeal upheld the ruling of the Suvorovsky District Court in Kherson which at the beginning of November found no traces of hooliganism in Dementiy’s actions on 14 September. This ruling is final.

The Prosecutor punished the police officer who “lost” Dementiy’s report and initiated a criminal investigation (admittedly, only over the beating, not obstruction of a journalist in his work) and passed it to the court.

And here the saga continues … It was by chance that Dementiy and his lawyer discovered that the judge due to examine the criminal case over the assault on him, had also accepted for examination another case – yet again brought by Viktor Shevchuk on a private basis against Dementiy Bily. And not over “hooliganism”, but a criminal case!

Judge Oksana Kuzmina had two hearings scheduled for Wednesday 13 January: at 13.20 a criminal case of “Shevchuk vs. Bily”, and at 13.30 – “Bily vs. Shevchuk”. Journalists from the newspaper Vgoru tried to attend these open court hearings.  Only the parties to the conflict (Bily and Shevchuk) were admitted to the first hearing, while journalists, deputies and others interested in this high-profile case (15 people in all) were not let it on the pretext that this was merely a preliminary hearing. However they promised to admit them to the second hearing and did not, claiming that there wasn’t enough space in her office and that they should turn to the state to provide big courtrooms (although there are courtrooms).

Even though through the door you could see at least three empty chairs, the judge was adamant and even called the guards. The journalists were not scared off, but behaved extremely correctly whereas the judge was violating their rights.

Before the next hearing of the case by Judge Oksana Kuzmina (who has combined both cases into one ) scheduled for 9 February, the complaint from journalists, leaders of civic organizations and deputies of the City Council who were not admitted to open court hearings on Wednesday will have reached the Supreme Court and Disciplinary Commission.

To be continued ….

 (adapted from a report by Viktoria Hlebova at Vgoru

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