Imprisoned Maidan activist’s family under attack in Russian-occupied Crimea
Oleksandr Kostenko was badly beaten and tortured in detention
A criminal investigation has been launched against the younger brother of Crimean political prisoner Oleksandr Kostenko over allegedly ‘insulting a judge’. The news is reported by Dmitry Sotnikov. Oleksandr Kostenko’s lawyer who sees this as the latest offensive against his client’s family. There is still no sign of Oleksandr’s father, Fyodor who disappeared after crossing into Crimea on his way back from a press conference in Kyiv about Oleksandr’s arrest. Yelena Kostenko, Oleksandr’s mother, has suffered a stroke, most likely caused by the immense stress she must be under. As reported, the attack against Oleksandr’s family began earlier, with searches of the homes of his wife and her brother’s family carried out despite the presence of very small children.
Yevgeny Kostenko has learned that a criminal investigation was launched against him on July 1 under Article 297 § 2 of the Russian Criminal Code – insulting a judge. Sotnikov calls the judge in question – Vladimir Mozhelyansky – “anti-Maidan” and suggests his close collaboration with the occupation regime (calling him a ‘polite man’, a term used about the Russian soldiers who seized control of Crimea in late Feb 2014). Sotnikov says that Mozhelyansky even directly insulted Oleksandr Kostenko during his trial, rejected all the defence’s application while allowing Crimean prosecutor Natalya Poklonskaya free reign in court. He was also contemptuous in his behaviour to Oleksandr’s mother, prompting Sotnikov to lodge a disciplinary complaint against him.
The charge of ‘insulting’ Mozhelyansky dates back to the court hearing prior to announcement of the verdict against Oleksandr Kostenko. In protest that even on the eve of the sentence his client was being beaten and refused food, Sotnikov left the court. So too, in solidarity, did all members of Oleksandr’s family, including Yevgeny. The latter had a nervous twitch because of the strain they were under. The court bailiffs interpreted his movement as an indecent gesture and demanded a formal explanation. He explained that it had been a spasm and apologised to the judge if his gesture had been misinterpreted. No medical examination was carried out, making it difficult to imagine how the ‘case’ can even be examined. It is clearly putting more pressure on the family, with this likely to be deliberate.
The appeal hearing into Oleksandr Kostenko’s conviction has been postponed and there is no indication of when a new hearing will be scheduled.
The authoritative Memorial Human Rights Centre has declared Oleksandr Kostenko to be a political prisoner and has followed the Crimean Human Rights Field Mission and other human rights groups in pointing to the legal absurdity of the entire prosecution.
Kostenko was found guilty by a court in Russian-occupied Crimea using Russian law of committing an offence which allegedly took place in Kyiv in February, 2014, before Russia’s annexation of Crimea. As well as the lack of any jurisdiction, the actual charge of slightly injuring a Ukrainian Berkut special force officer during the Euromaidan protests was fundamentally unprovable. This did not stop Poklonskaya, installed as Crimean prosecutor by the occupation regime, from demanding a 4 year 2 month sentence, which Mozhelyansky accordingly handed down.
There is clear evidence that Kostenko was badly tortured in custody, that the criminal investigation against him was launched after he was taken into custody and that this took place a full day before he was officially recorded as having been done. See EuroMaidan activist sentenced to 4 years on surreal charges for more details of this chillingly lawless case.