Lawyer: the criminal proceedings against Tax Code protesters are political persecution
The lawyers defending those charged over the Tax Code Protest on Maidan Nezalezhnosti or Independence Square in Kyiv, and those accused, are determined to draw the public’s attention to the injustice of the situation. A press conference on Tuesday is entitled “Prisoners of the Tax Code Maidan – the repressive machine of the President’s Administration in action”.
The case involves the tents erected by those taking part in the protest against the new Tax Code. Seven people are facing criminal proceedings. They are accused of damaging the granite on Maidan Nezalezhnosti by driving metal stakes into it when setting up the tents.
Oleh Levytsky, the lawyer defending one of the imprisoned Tax Code protesters, Ihor Garkavenko, calls the criminal case against his client political persecution and accuses the investigators of ignoring the arguments.
Mr Levytsky says that neither his client nor the other suspects could have taken part in erecting the tents. He adds, however, that even if they had done this, the damage from it was far less than “the economic damage to the interests of millions of business entrepreneurs throughout Ukraine” averted by the Maidan Tax Code Protest.
“The investigators are ignoring the defence’s arguments”
Levytsky explains that five of those facing charges did not take part in the small business owners’ protest at all, while two others arrived at the scene only after towards the end of the protests.
He asserts that the investigators are entirely ignoring the arguments presented by the defence, and the courts have extended Garkavenko’s remand in custody “despite the facts, the law and sheer commonsense”. In his view the confidence with which the investigators are violating procedural and legal norms suggests that the case has been ordered by high-ranking officials, and is political persecution, aimed at discrediting the anti-Tax Code protests. “We are seeing some kind of actions planned from above which is supposed to prove to the entire country that there was a “criminal face” behind the “Tax Code Maidan”. This could be a purge of the civic-political field in Ukraine, I can find no other explanation”, Levytsky says.
He adds that he will not stop defending Ihor Garkavenko who is well-known for his critical publications in the Ukrainian and Russian Internet. He believes it possible, however, that the commissioned nature of Garkavenko’s prosecution leaves little chance of winning the case. He is determined to draw the attention of the public and the press to this case, but acknowledges that he knows of no precedents for wide publicity of unjust prosecutions actually changing the situation.