Avakov: MP or Political Prisoner?
The leader of the Kharkiv opposition, Arsen Avakov, should be returning to Ukraine in December to be sworn in as MP. He could, however, face arrest if he returns and according to the Deutsche Welle Ukrainian Service is likely to wait for the formation of the parliamentary majority before making a final decision,
As reported here, the former Kharkiv Regional Governor, ally of imprisoned opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko and one of the two main contenders in the last Mayor elections, had a criminal case initiated against him in January 2012. The charges are the same “abuse of power” as in the trials of Tymoshenko and Lutsenko. He is accused of involvement in illegal privatization of 55 hectares of public land. Both the opposition and human rights groups have expressed concern over the criminal proceedings, calling them politically motvated.
Mr Avakov was put on the Interpol wanted listed soon after the case was initiated, and was arrested in Naples in March this year. He was however released from custody pending a decision on extradition while was in his favour.
Over the year and a half since Avakov has been abroad, his financial empire has been badly shaken, Deutsche Welle writes. The National Bank of Ukraine has declared the Basis Bank which he founded bankrupt, while the media corporation which he is linked with lost three major regional TV channels which were taken off air (see: http://khpg.org/index.php?id=1316471169 ) Several top managers from his Investor firm are suspected of dodgy land deals, with some arrested, others declared on the wanted list.
One of the former heads of the firm committed suicide a week after the parliamentary elections. According to the official version, he threw himself out of the window of his ninth floor flat. The police have initiated an investigation under the article (driving a person to suicide). The investigation unit has asserted that they have questions specifically to Avakov, claiming that the dead man mentioned him in his suicide letter.
Avakov has called this “an attempt by the police to bring the tragedy into the political area” and says that he thinks it possible the man simply couldn’t endure the interrogations.
From the moment when the Central Election Committee registered Avakov as parliamentary candidate for the United Opposition, he enjoyed deputy immunity. This means that he cannot be arrested without the consent of a parliamentary majority.
According to his press secretary, he believes that the only criminal case against him should be terminated.
The press service of the Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office asserts that it sees no grounds to comment since Avakov is not in the country.
Whether or not he can risk returning at present depends on the parliamentary majority. Kharkiv political analyst Ihor Polishchuk says that “if the ruling majority continues to take a hard line against opposition politicians, with Avakov quite a prominent figure, then his problems will continue. I would not exclude even the risk that he’d be imprisoned.”
From a report here