Yakiv Strogan: More questions than answers to the end
On 13 August the first instance court in the trial of Kharkiv resident Yakiv Strogan, charged with “attempted murder”, finally issued its verdict.
The Prosecutor had asked for 8 years imprisonment while the defence insisted that Yakiv Strogan was innocent and must be acquitted.
The panel of three judges at the Kievsky District Court in Kharkiv found Strogan guilty of the offence under Article 125 § 2 of the Criminal Code (inflicting light bodily injuries) and handed down a suspended sentence of two years restriction of liberty with a one year probation period. He was also ordered to pay the alleged victim 4 thousand UAH (around 400 EUR) in compensation.
Yakiv Strogan and his lawyer, Serhiy Medvedev will be appealing against the verdict.
For almost 4 months after a scuffle between Strogan and a neighbour in August 2010 Yakiv Strogan consistently accused police officers of torture aimed at extorting money from his family. He was questioned by experienced lawyers from the Kharkiv Human Rights Group who stated equally publicly that he had spoken of things he was most unlikely to have come up with himself. Strogan tried to get a criminal investigation initiated, spoke out publicly, even at parliamentary hearings.
Until one evening in December when police officers from the same police station turned up and arrested Yakiv Strogan, accusing him of attempted murder way back in August 2010. The neighbour with whom Strogan had had a run-in and who had fallen on a broken bottle was now presented as the victim of an attempted murder, with his wife the star witness and a knife, without finger prints, but supposedly the weapon.
Strogan was taken into custody and by the time he was brought to court the next day had clear signs of beating. They were reported by human rights group representatives and journalists in the court and ignored by the judge who remanded Yakiv Strogan in custody.
He was held there until 12 March 2012.
There had been no investigation of his allegations of torture in August, with all courts rejecting appeals against the Prosecutor’s refusal to initiate a criminal investigator and the Supreme Court’s judgement awaited.
The Prosecutor similarly refused to initiate an investigation over torture in police custody on 9 December, despite the number of witnesses able to confirm the difference in Strogan’s condition by his court appearance the next day.
The hearings into the charge against him began in the spring of 2011, with hearings being constantly deferred, especially after the forensic report which had supposedly substantiated the claims of attempted murder was, back in May 2011, so demolished in court that the judge agreed to the defence’s demand that the author of the forensic examination be questioned in court. She also demanded other documentation with that, and the forensic expert’s questioning, enabling a decision to be made as to whether a repeat forensic examination was to be called for.
It is a great relief that the court has not imposed a sentence involving any further imprisonment. The case remains, however, profoundly disturbing, and it is no wonder that Amnesty International has focused on it when addressing the issues of police impunity in Ukraine.