26.08.2013 | Halya Coynash

Watch this Case!


The appeal hearing is due on 28 August in a trial much publicised because of President Yanukovych’s direct input.  

Two sacristans of the Svyatopokrovsk Orthodox Church in Zaporizhya and the brother of one are facing 14 and 15-year-terms of imprisonment over a bomb which exploded on 28 July 2010, causing the death of an elderly nun and considerable damage.  There is no evidence against any of the defendants, only seven “confessions” which all retracted in court as obtained through physical and psychological pressure.  

The first “confession” was obtained the day after a television broadcast on 29 July in which President Yanukovych demanded of the heads of all enforcement bodies that the culprits be arrested within the week.  

Anton Kharytonov, together with his mother, was taken to the police station the morning after the television broadcast.  This was purportedly to look at a photo, but the two were separated immediately and Anton taken away.  The protocol of detention was drawn up 14 hours later, just before midnight, his first “confession” and night interrogation.

The transcript of that interrogation is available.  It includes a veiled threat from the interrogator who within minutes stops the tape and leaves the room for 45 minutes.  What followed was the first of Anton’s four “confessions” over 10 days. He spoke of knowing somebody called “Vasya”, a 16-year-old who had talked about “fireworks” in the church.  He seems uncertain and confused, and only really answers the interrogator’s questions which often require only a yes or no.

This transcript and others were analyzed by forensic psychologists from two accredited institutes (Donetsk and Luhansk) who found in all cases that the three men had been placed under serious psychological pressure.  The analyses point out that none of the young men gave evidence independently without the investigator asking leading questions or prompting, Judge Volodymyr Minasov simply called for a third assessment (Kyiv) which found no psychological pressure, but detected an “inclination to criminality”. 

The judge rejected applications from the defence to call all three forensic psychologists in order to ascertain the reason for such divergent assessments.

Without any apparent grounds, Anton’s brother Serhiy Dyomin was detained on the evening of the same day as Anton.  He alleges that as well as physical torture, they threatened to arrest his mother. Serhiy made two “confessions”.  During a night interrogation he confessed to making the bomb, and can even be seen hesitantly demonstrating how he supposedly did this.  After explosives experts assessed his “confession” and concluded he lacked the knowledge to have made the bomb, he provided a second “confession”, saying that he had bought the device “from an unidentified individual”. 

Yevhen Fedorchenko, like Anton a sacristan of the Church, was arrested last and made one confession which he also retracted in court.

More information about the causes for concern can be found here

They include

multiple confessions which all retracted as soon as they received proper legal aid;

The lawyers present during the interrogations were called in by the investigators and their behaviour was so unprofessional that three later faced disciplinary proceedings as a result;

Lack of any credible motive and total failure to investigate other seemingly strong leads.

No evidence that a full examination was ever carried out into consistent allegations of torture and ill-treatment.

Changes made to the indictment almost two years into the case.  These removed specification of time, since the three all had alibis for part of the impugned actions.

The case involves no politicians, no celebrities, but has itself become widely known.  It is generally assumed that all three young men are innocent but that no Ukrainian court will acquit them.  This fact alone makes the significance of the case inestimable.  Attendance in court on 28 August by Human Rights Ombudsperson Valeria Lutkovska, representatives of foreign embassies in Ukraine and EU structures, Amnesty International and the media would provide a vital signal.

Appeal hearing: 28 August at 14.00 in the Zaporizhya Court of Appeal (50, ul. Artema)

As well as Lost in SIZO, details of the interrogations can be found here: No Duress? Telling Details in the Zaporizhya Church Bomb Case

All interrogations and other material are in Russian and can be provided (or, within reason – the volume is massive – translated).   

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