Maidan activist appeals legally absurd 4 year sentence


  Oleksandr Kostenko’s assertion that he was tortured to extract a confession have been ignored, despite the clear evidence of his injuries  

The appeal hearing has been postponed and is now due on July 8 against the prison sentence passed in Russian-occupied Crimea against a Euromaidan activist over an alleged event in Kyiv before Russia’s invasion of Crimea.  Despite the overt legal nonsense of the charges and recognition by the authoritative Memorial society that Oleksandr Kostenko is a political prisoner, the chances of a fair hearing seem remote.  

Statements made by the prosecutor Natalya Poklonskaya have indicated that Kostenko’s prosecution is only the first in a series of entirely lawless trials planned against former Maidan activists.  Memorial’s statement, issued on June 29, calls the prosecution “part of a political and information campaign which Russia has waged against Ukraine and Euromaidan supporters since the change in government in Kyiv last February”. 

As reported, Kostenko was convicted on May 15 of two charges under Russian legislation.  The prosecution claimed that on Feb 18, 2014 in Kyiv Kostenko slightly injured a Berkut special force officer “in order to show armed resistence to law enforcement officers”.  He was alleged to have thrown a cobble stone which hit V. Poliyenko on the left shoulder and caused a bruise.   This charge that emerged almost 12 months later was under Article 115 § 2.b  of the Russian Criminal Code (deliberately causing mild damage to health for motives of political, ideological, racial, ethnic or religious hatred or enmity, or for the same motives in relation to a social group).   Kostenko was, however, also charged under Article 222 § 1 (unlawfully obtaining, keeping or carrying the main parts of a firearm”) with the rifle barrel allegedly found during a search of Kostenko’s home not having been seen by the witnesses present and almost certainly planted. 

Kostenko has been in custody now since Feb 5, although the criminal proceedings against him were only initiated a day later.  The charges were both too minor to warrant a detention order, yet the investigator claimed and the judge accepted that Kostenko needed to be held in custody because he had supposedly evaded the investigators, had not notified of the crime allegedly committed and because he is a Ukrainian citizen.  

Stanislav Krasnov who was with Kostenko in Kyiv says that at the time of the alleged cobble-stone offence, Kostenko was nowhere near the scene, but was inside a building tending to the injured.  Krasnov is also facing different, but no less bizarre charges.

Another claim by the investigators – that Kostenko held a leading post in the “Ukrainian radical nationalist political party ‘Svoboda’ has been rejected by ‘Svoboda’ who say that Kostenko was not even a member.

Krasnov earlier suggested that Kostenko had been deliberately targeted as revenge for the two men’s role while in the Simferopol police force.  They were both dismissed in 2013 and say that this was because they exposed a case where two Crimean women were abducted and sold into sexual slavery.

This may be the case, however it seems clear that Kostenko’s prosecution is part of an offensive against all pro-Ukrainian activists, especially if they took part in the Euromaidan protests. 

As reported, Kostenko has from the outset insisted that he was subjected to torture from Feb 5 when he was actually detained until Feb 6, the date officially recorded. He alleges that the officers applied electric shocks, and that it was they who inflicted the numerous bruises and bleeding over his entire body and broke his arm and fingers.  He says that in a state of fear and under such pressure, he signed the protocols of the interrogations almost without reading them. 

Memorial agrees that this testimony was probably obtained through torture, and expresses concern also over the unwarrantedly classified evidence of an anonymous victim known only as Stepa.  This person claimed that Kostenko had told him that in the basement of the Kyiv City State Administration building of the ‘Gestapo’, he had tortured and killed both civilians and police officers.  No evidence of any of these allegations was provided.  Nor in fact was there evidence of any of the claims except the testimony of former Berkut officers who have begun serving in the Russian police force and have a clear interest in convicting Kostenko.   These ex-Berkut officers are alleged to have ‘recognized’ Kostenko so many months later, though there is no description provided either of Kostenko himself, or the clothes that he was wearing.

Memorial considers the Kostenko trial to be part of a campaign of persecution of pro-Ukrainian activists and finds it indicative of the political motivation behind it that Poklonskaya should herself have represented the prosecution’s case in court and that two relatively minor charges were transferred to the Crimean Investigative Committee’s head office.  Memorial calls for Kostenko’s immediate release and a re-examination of the case, with those guilty of fabricating it being brought to justice.

Kostenko’s lawyer, Dmitry Sotnikov has indicated that they will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights to this flagrant travesty of justice.    

Halya Coynash

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