Yet another charge against Tymoshenko’s lawyer


Serhiy Vlasenko, who was controversially stripped of his parliamentary mandate in March 2013, and Yulia Tymoshenko’s defence counsel, is facing another criminal charge, at least as incomprehensible as the others.  The Prosecutor General’s Office has announced that its chief investigator registered a new investigation regarding “the committing by S. Vlasenko of unlawful actions which fall under Article 146 § 2 of the Criminal Code with respect to his former wife N. Okunska  The article in question pertains to unlawfully depriving a person of their liberty or abducting them.  Paragraph 2 is when this offence is against a small child, for mercenary motives, with respect to two or more people, as part of a conspiracy or in a way which causes physical suffering, or with the use of force or over a long period.

A conviction on this charge could carry a sentence of up to 5 years imprisonment.  

Vlasenko told Interfax Ukraine that he has no idea what the new charge is even about, and calls it total nonsense.  He asserts that the whole point of the exercise is to bring charges which make it impossible to arrest him.

In November last year Vlasenko was called in for interrogation to the Prosecutor General’s Office and there was concern that he had been taken into custody.  This proved not to be the case, and thus far he is prevented from travelling abroad, but still at liberty and able to visit Tymoshenko in Kharkiv.  The charges already against him are also linked with ex-wife, Natalya Okunska who has proved remarkably obliging in bringing all kinds of claims against her former husband.  These, it is worth noting, are then investigated by the department for investigating especially important cases.   The alleged domestic violence against Okunska, a model, dates back many years, and it is unclear what reasons, if any, she has provided for only making the allegations now.  

In February 2013, Vlasenko who was still an MP informed that a number of criminal cases had been lodged against him, all based on allegations made by his ex-wife. They ncluded non-enforcement of a court ruling, wiping messages from her mobile phone and “robbery”, with the latter seemingly connected with a car whose ownership was disputed.  

In early March the High Administrative Court stripped Vlasenko  of his parliamentary mandate supposedly for combining professional activities with their parliamentary role, this being prohibited.  The other MP, for the purposes of symmetry, was from the ruling Party of the Regions, although any number of other MPs could as easily have been accused of the same infringement.  Much more so than Vlasenko since even the court did not suggest that Vlasenko had taken money for his role as Tymoshenko’s defender. Furthermore, although he himself is a defence lawyer, the position he held was one which under the previous Criminal Procedure Code could be held by a relative of a defendant without any legal training.

The charges against the imprisoned former prime minister’s main defence counsel, especially the range and fact that they are all brought by his ex-wife continue to cause concern.  Whether, as Vlasenko believes, this new charge is aimed at providing a pretext for arresting him remains to be seen.  Unfortunately, like many of the statements from the Prosecutor General’s office containing accusations against Tymoshenko, the new charge does nothing to allow fears that Vlasenko is becoming another victim of selective justice.

Halya Coynash

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