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24.05.2012 | Halya Coynash

Arrest Warrant on Civic Activist and Likely Parliamentary Candidate

   

Rimma Bilotserkivska who has an arrest warrant from 22 May hanging over her is not the criminal type. Nor is she in hiding which was effectively the “justification” for the latest court absurdity in a seemingly endless flow.  The story is Kafkaesque, the order for her arrest all too real.

Rimma Bilotserkivska is the head of a Severodonetsk human rights organization, Pravovy Prostir [Legal Realm]. The criminal proceedings against her were initiated five years ago when she led a group of residents of an apartment block protesting against the destruction of a green area outside their homes. The authorities ignored them, and when the construction workers arrived and showed equally little interest in the residents’ objections. Ms Bilotserkivska saw no alternative but to climb up to stop the digging work.  The charges are of obstructing cranes.

With a case like that, it is not surprising that first one judge washed his hands of it by sending it back for further investigation.  SIX judges then proceeded to withdraw themselves from the case, presumably unable to treat obstruction of cranes with the impartiality required.

It is worth noting that the human rights activist is a well-known figure in her area, and there has been talk of her standing for parliament in October’s elections. Remand in custody would clearly not enhance her chances of election. This is so manifestly obvious that questions must arise regarding the sudden twist in a five-year-old saga.

The case was, in breach of the Criminal Procedure Code, transferred from Severodonetsk to the Rubizhne District Court  Ms Bilotserkivska knows her rights and the law, and submitted all the appropriate objections and applications.  The court which issued an arrest warrant on 22 May, supposedly because Ms Bilotserkivska had twice not appeared, should not be examining the case. 

At a press conference on Wednesday, the Head of the Luhansk independent trade union “Luhansk Region Entrepreneurs”, Ihor Zaprudsky told journalists that Ms Bilotserkivska is not in hiding, but in her office, with supporters who have no intention of leaving. If the police wish to arrest her, they need another warrant from the court.  Mr Zaprudsky believes that the criminal case is being deliberately dragged out and has lodged an appeal against the decision to change the restraint measure from a signed undertaking to remand in custody.

The Small and Medium Business Assembly of Ukraine, together with Pravovy Prostir, are promising to set up protest tents if Ms Bilotserkivska is arrested. 

The 2010 Local Elections were marred by a number of dubious criminal investigations and detentions of potentially successful candidates, including the then Mayor of Kamianets-Podilsky.  There has already been one arrest this month of a politician expected to be standing for office in October.   Dnipropetrovsk politician and businessman, Zahid Krasnov  was arrested over a criminal investigation which had been terminated back in 2009 but has now been reactivated on the instructions of the Prosecutor General.  He was held in custody for a week then released on a signed undertaking not to abscond.

The latest developments in an old and patently absurd criminal case against a human rights activist and potential candidate in the coming elections place in question the authorities’ declared intention to hold free and fair elections. 

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