Yakiv Strogan trial clearly being dragged out


 The trial of Yakiv Strogan is continuing, but with overt procrastination. This is despite attention not only within Ukraine, but from Amnesty International and, through its report, the US State Department.  Despite the fact that the judge who remanded Strogan in custody on 10 December 2010, Svitlana Muratova from the Kievsky District Court received the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union’s Thistle of the Year Anti-Award for the worst human rights offenders specifically over her behaviour in Strogan’s case. 

Yakiv Strogan has now been held in custody for almost 14 months in a case creating a number of highly dangerous precedents.

Strogan had approached the Kharkiv Human Rights Group in October 2010 complaining that he had been tortured by officers from the Kievsky District Police Station in Kharkiv. This followed a run-in with a neighbour, Marchenko, which according to witnesses was initiated by the latter. 

Inna Sukhorukova explains that the police knew that Strogan had recently sold his car and therefore all their demands, while he was being tortured, Strogan recounted, concerned money. They demanded that his wife find 10 thousand dollars. For three days he was beaten and subjected to various forms of torture, including the use of electric shocks and having ammonia poured down his nose and mouth He was only released after he promised to try to find the money after his wife’s efforts proved fruitless.

Yakiv Strogan spoke of his ordeal in public, including at a press conference and at parliamentary hearings at the beginning of December 2010.  A week later, on 9 December he was detained by officers from the same Kievsky District Police Station and brought to the courtroom the next day showing clear signs of ill-treatment after having been held in police custody since the previous evening.  This was reported by both the human rights activists and journalists present in the courtroom.  The judge found none of this cause for concern and remanded Yakov Strogan in custody. 

The police accuse Strogan of attempted murder over the scuffle back in August although there had been no suggestion of any such allegations at the time.

Inna Sukhorukhova writes that from the outset the court hearing the charges against Strogan has taken a position in support of the prosecution’s case.  The panel of judges, presided over by N. Borodina, have rejected witnesses for the defence and the lawyer’s applications even where there were needed to understand the essence of the case. It has also refused to change the restraint measures due to Strogan’s state of health. He has back and kidney problems.

Despite the allegations of torture made for months before the charges of murder were ever heard, the judges have ignored this issue altogether.

Strogan is charged with having given Marchenko several knife wounds supposedly meaning that Marchenko needed to be hospitalized and underwent an operation.

Strogan back in October 2010 had explained that during the scuffle, Marchenko, who was drunk, fell onto glass from broken beer bottle.  This was confirmed by a witness, the wife of the courtyard janitor however back in May last year the court rejected the lawyer’s application to hear her testimony.  The fact that she can confirm seeing the broken glass and blood is vital since the case initiated only four months after the incident speaks of a knife which was “found” with blood on it, but no fingerprints.  The court refused to hear her on the pretext that she had no certificate from her place of work.  She could have brought this within an hour. Instead the court simply removed her as witness.

At that time the lawyer, S. Medvedev read out the text of the victim’s forensic examination carried out two months after the event and demolished it. He called on the court to order records from the hospitals where the alleged victim was treated after his injury as well as a new comprehensive forensic examination carried out somewhere other than in Kharkiv. The lawyer also demanded that the person who had carried out the extraordinarily unprofessional forensic examination be summoned for questioning.  The court appointed a new commission forensic examination.

That was many months ago, and no forensic report has yet been produced and Strogan remains in detention.  Ms Sukhorukova reports that Judge Borodina is presently refusing to allow Strogan’s lawyer to see his client and preventing his wife’s visits.

The cynical disregard for the law in this case is frightening, as is the message it is giving the public. 

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