Tax Code protesters’ trial begins
The Shevchenkivsky District Court in Kyiv has begun examining the criminal prosecution brought against seven activists of the protests against the draft Tax Code in autumn 2010. The mass protests became known as the Tax Code Maidan because of the huge numbers of protesters and tents on Maidan Nezalezhnosti [Independence Square] and the associations with the mass protests against vote rigging in 2004 known as the Orange Revolution. The activists are charged with damaging the granite stone on Maidan Nezalezhnosti and of blocking the road on Khreshchatyk St. The seven defendants could face up to three years imprisonment. They deny any guilt and call the proceedings pressure on the opposition.
The court hearing took place on Friday with the indictment being read out, before the court adjourned until 8 February.
The accused are Vitaly Gruzynov; Oleh Akhtyrsky; Roman Fedchuk; Ihor Harkavenko; Oleksandr Mandych; Oleksandr Zaplatkin; as well as the head of the Coalition of Participants in the Orange Revolution, Serhiy Melnychenko. The latter is alleged by the Prosecutor to have been the leader of the “criminal group” which supposedly deliberately damaged the granite stone on Maidan Nezalezhnosti.
The indictment is worth hearing in full: it claims that from 21 November to 3 December 2010 (when the entirely peaceful protest was broken up and the tents dismantled – translator) Serhiy Melnychenko, “carrying out his criminal intentions aimed at damaging property not belonging to him, through prior conspiracy with R. Fedchuk; O. Akhtyrsky; O. Mandych; I. Harkavenko; O. Zaplatkin; V. Gruzynov erected eight military tents on Maidan Nezalezhnosti.”
“In the process of erecting the tents 132 metallic 50-60 cm. long spikes were beat into the junctions of the granite stone.”
The prosecution is claiming that the accused “caused the territorial community of Kyiv and the road exploitation department of the Shevchenkivsky District material damage amounting to 212, 292 UAH.” They are charged under Article 194 of the Criminal Code (deliberate damaging of property), with a maximum punishment of 3 years imprisonment.
Serhiy Melnychenko is also charged under Article 293 of the Criminal Code (organizing group actions leading to disruption of transport) carrying a sentence of up to six months imprisonment. He is alleged to have given the protesters the command to block the road on Khreshchatyk on the second day of the protests.
Serhiy Melnychenko calls the prosecution trumped up and says that it constitutes reprisals against all those who try to oppose the present regime and pressure on the opposition. He said that anybody can check their innocence by going to Maidan and seeing that the granite stone is in no way damaged.
Oleh Akhtyrsky who is from the movement Common Cause [Spilna Sprava] agrees and believes that the prosecution may be because his organization did not just put forward economic demands, but also called for the dissolution of the Verkhovna Rada and impeachment of the President. He added that it would be strange to imagine the leader of the Coalition of Participants in the Orange Revolution, an organization he didn’t belong to and a person he didn’t know, could give him any commands.
The next hearing is scheduled for 8 February.
New information reported by Kommersant-Ukraine