Trial of Yury Lutsenko begins
The trial began today of former Minister of Internal Affairs and leader of the People’s Self-Defence Party who has been held in custody since December 2010. The charges he is facing and the spurious grounds for his remand in custody have elicited statements of concern both in Ukraine and abroad. On 9 June an appeal was lodged calling on democratic leaders to use their means of influence, including through freezing assets and visa restrictions on those guilty of political repression. Later on Thursday, the European Parliament passed a resolution criticizing selective prosecution of members of the opposition.
The Pechersky Court in Kyiv where the trial is taking place once again rejected petition for withdrawal of the judge examining Lutsenko’s case.
An earlier application from Yury Lutsenko for the withdrawal of the same Judge, Serhiy Vovk was rejected. Lutsenko asserts that the Judge has a direct personal interest in finding him guilty. The BBC Ukrainian Service reports him as saying when he headed the MIA, “a criminal investigation was initiated against Serhiy Vovk for forging a court ruling, stealing civil cases and fraudulent appropriation of 70 hectares of land.”
The representatives of the Prosecutor in turn asserted that Yury Lutsenko’s claims were unconfirmed and pressure on the court. Yet the First Deputy Head of the Parliamentary Committee on Fighting Corruption and Organized Crime, Hennady Moskal told the BBC that back in 2009 there had been a report on the Kyiv Prosecutor’s website saying that a criminal investigation had been initiated against one of the judges of the Pechersky Court, but that later it had been removed. “The Committee received documents that this concerned specifically Judge Serhiy Vovk and sent an information request to the Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka. For him to either confirm or refute the information. However there has still been no answer”. Moskal says that it is still not known where the criminal file disappeared to. Serhiy Vovk has on a number of occasions denied any involvement in a criminal case.
Later in the afternoon it was reported that the Prosecutor General was planning to check whether there had been such a criminal investigation.
As reported, Yury Lutsenko was arrested in late December by 11 Special Force Alfa officers when walking his dog. The criminal investigation had been initiated in November and Lutsenko gave a signed undertaking not to leave his place of residence. He did not do so and any reasons given for his remand in custody were seriously questionable.
The charges against him have also caused concern. The following is from the analysis made by the Danish Helsinki Committee of Human Rights:
“ The final charges concerned violation of Art. 191, para. 5, (misappropriation of state property in especially gross amount through abuse of office by an organized group) and Art. 365, para. 3 (excess of official powers that caused grave consequences), for the following alleged actions:
Unlawful promotion of Mr. Lutsenko’s driver to the rank of police officer, leading to losses caused to the state because of increased salary and payment of other benefits.
allowing expenses for the organization of the annual Militsia´s Day festivities in 2009 in violation of a resolution of the government to halt such expenses.
having exceeded his power as Minister in connection with the police monitoring of a driver of the former head of the Security Service, who was suspected of complicity in the poisoning of former Preisdent of Ukraine Mr. Yushchenko.”
The court adjourned this afternoon with the next hearing scheduled for 22 June.