Court forces pace on Lutsenko trial
Having ended examination of the case against former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko at galloping pace, the court machine has speeded up the trial of former Internal Affairs Minister Yury Lutsenko.
His case has been under examination by the Pechersky District Court in Kyiv since May 2011, but was largely overshadowed by the Tymoshenko trial.
Natalya Tarasovskaya writes that the first hearings in 2012 demonstrate that the case has been given additional impetus with maximum frequency of hearings and the decisions from presiding Judge Serhiy Vovk more unyielding.
Yury Lutsenko is convinced that, having dealt with Tymoshenko, those in power now want to finish with his case as quickly as possible.
If one tots up the witnesses who have been “for” or “against” Lutsenko, than the count is definitely in his favour, however the former Minister and opposition leader does not see this as making a positive outcome obvious.
On 11 January two witnesses were questioned regarding the allocation of a flat to Lutsenko’s driver Leonid Prystuplyuk. As reported, they testified that everything had been within the law, that Prystuplyuk had not been given the flat as his own, but only allowed to use it. Both stated that they only knew Lutsenko as a public figure, with Tetyana Subotenko saying that he couldn’t have approached her from the television screen.
Perhaps the main event of that day was the questioning of Oleksy Kostenko, former deputy head of the department of intelligence operations and head of the staffing department.
Lutsenko explained that he had sacked Kostenko: “Consider the absurdity of the situation: in his division there were three killers of the journalist Gongadze working. He was dismissed for that and today he is giving testimony against the Minister who discovered these killers and passed them over to the Prosecutor”.
Lutsenko was outraged and demanded that Kostenko’s testimony not be taken into consideration.
Kostenko said that Prystuplyuk had received the flat unlawfully, but it later transpired that this was only his personal opinion since he did not know the details of the flat’s allocation.
Kostenko said that during the pre-trial investigation the investigator had prompted him. “And I signed, I didn’t have my glasses then”.
However he denied having said at investigation stage that Lutsenko had instructed him to prepare the order allocating the flat to Prystuplyuk.
As reported at the time, during the questioning of Oleksy Kostenko, Yury Lutsenko himself began asking question. He noted that Kostenko gave detailed testimony regarding Mr Lutsenko’s driver Leonid Prystuplyuk, but could not remember more than one name of his own subordinates. Lutsenko and the defence believe that this demonstrates that the witnesses received “consultation” before the questioning.
When asked by Lutsenko how he could so clearly remember the circumstances around the employment of Prystuplyuk, Oleksy Kostenko answered that he had a notebook in which he noted down many facts linked with his work.
“Are you aware that the names of staff of the operational service department is secret information?”, Lutsenko asked.
The witness said that yes, he was aware of that.
“Why do you keep information about member of the department, Leonid Prystuplyuk which is an official secret at home in a notebook?”, he was asked.
“I have such handwriting, it’s all so well coded that nobody will understand”. These words from the witness elicited loud laughter from the people present in the courtroom, and an elderly woman shouted “Shame!”. Presiding Judge Serhiy Vovk issued a reprimand then decided to expel all present for the rest of the day’s hearing.
The efforts by journalists to convince the Griffon officers that they had done nothing to disturb the proceedings were fruitless.
The hearing on 12 January was postponed due to the absence of one of the defendants’ lawyers.
The judges took half an hour in the consulting chambers to decide to postpone the hearing even though all parties agreed to it. Although they agreed, they decided to inform the Qualifying Commission of Lawyers and made it clear to the defendant that his lawyer should be treating this case as priority (the lawyer was involved in another hearing that day.)
13 January - 4 in favour of Lutsenko
Two police generals were questioned – Petro Kolyada and Vladimir Yevdokimov. Kolyada testified in Lutsenko’s favour regarding the Police Day events, the driver’s flat and the incident linked with the investigation into Yushchenko’s poisoning.
Like Yevdokimov, Kolyada in fact felt that the Police Day events had been poor in comparison with other years.
As reported already, Yevdokimov had been upset that the event was treated as a special occasion, not festivities, and explained that according to the Presidential decree, the day is stipulated as a day of celebration, and a Cabinet of Ministers Resolution cannot cancel this.
He said that the event was without pomp and a buffet and that he had even laid things on for veterans out of his own money.
Yevdokimov said that MIA veterans and generals were ready to collect the necessary amount of money to pay back the cost of renting a hall of the Ukraina Palace which the Prosecutor is claiming was squandering of public funding.
One of the charges against Yury Lutsenko relates to this event with it being called abuse of office with significant cost to the state. The defence lawyers say that what is in question is 607 thousand UAH, 300 thousand in 2008 and 2009, as well as 7 thousand for flowers, medals and petrol.
Two other witnesses that day also stated that no offences had been committed in the acts over which Lutsenko is being tried.
Yury Lutsenko was in a very bad state of health that day (his health has caused concern over many months yet he has never received proper treatment – translator), but the judge was implacable and did not end the gruellingly long hearing.
Until, that is, the fourth witness, Yevhen Troyan was asked when he had last been called to the Prosecutor General’s Office over the Lutsenko case. He stated that this had been the day before, that he had been summoned by the head of the investigative department, Oleksandr Ishchuk who has already once been reported in the media as having met with a witness on the eve of the questioning.
“He invited me to today’s court hearing, asked whether I would come. We had a short conversation, talked about what I said at the pre-trial investigation”.
After this the court adjourned until Monday.
However on Monday the hearing did not take place since the lawyers of one of the defendants did not appear. Judge Vovk complained, calling this irresponsible although previously a delay of a day had not caused any problems
Lutsenko stated that the court had obviously received an order to finish with his trial as soon as possible.
RFEL also reports that on Monday Lutsenko stated that he had looked through the list of the witnesses in his case prepared by the Prosecutor-General's Office and discovered that 10 of them have never been summoned to court and some 45 individuals who were officially summoned to his trial never appeared.
"More than 20 of those 45 potential witnesses have been summoned to court three or even five times, " Lutsenko said. "I do not understand why the court does not force those people to come and testify in the hearings."