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No end in sight to Russias revenge against imprisoned Maidan activist

29.04.16 | Halya Coynash

While Russian-occupied Crimea is looking set to convict another former Euromaidan activist of invented crimes over which it has no jurisdiction, efforts are continuing to secure the early release of Oleksandr Kostenko, the Ukrainian now serving a politically-motivated sentence in Russia.

Ukraines Embassy in Russia has sent a formal note over the recent refusal to grant Kostenko parole. The Embassy points to clear flaws in the April 13 ruling, Kostenkos health problems and family circumstances, and asks that the appeal be given due consideration. The court rejected the parole application citing Kostenkos denial of legally absurd charges and the fact that he had been placed in a punishment cell. It did not take into account the flimsy pretext for a severe punishment (Kostenko was alleged to have not greeted a prison official). The court also noted in its decision that Kostenko had been placed on a prophylactic register as a person studying, propagating, preaching or spreading extremist literature. This was despite the fact that during the court hearing, a prison official had been unable to give any sensible reason for Kostenko being on this list.

The official could hardly admit that nationality and / or political motivation were involved. At least one other Ukrainian political prisoner (Oleksandr Kolchenko) has also been registered as potentially extremist. When Kolchenko tried to find out what this extremist ideology was, a prison guard mentioned showing dissatisfaction with the current regime.

The refusal to release Kostenko, a recognized political prisoner, was not unexpected, however the grounds given have been rejected by Russias own Supreme Court which will also be pointed out in the appeal. The court ignored the fact that Kostenko has a small child, and that his mother has suffered two heart attacks since her son was arrested.

Kostenkos lawyer Dmitry Sotnikov sees both the refusal to grant parole, and the fact that his client has been put in a punishment cell as political. He writes that Oleksandr Kostenko, like Russias other Ukrainian prisoners, is a victim of Russias war against Ukraine. All of the Ukrainian political prisoners and Crimean prisoners who were illegally retried according to Russian law are prisoners of war. He believes that they will either all be released, in accordance with a political decision, or none.

Sotnikov has lodged a cassation appeal with Russias Supreme Court and is continuing the battle against the stubborn refusal to investigate the considerable evidence that Kostenko was badly tortured still in Simferopol.

Oleksandr Kostenkois a Ukrainian citizen sentenced by a Russian-occupied Crimean court to 4 years imprisonment over an alleged offence in Kyiv, before Russia invaded and annexed Crimea. The court ignored the evidence that his first confession had been tortured out of him, and flagrant infringements of procedure from the moment of his arrest. Subsequent appeals have slightly reduced the sentence which now stands at 3 and a half years. He has been in custody since Feb 5, 2015.

The Ukrainian Euromaidan activist was convicted of slightly injuring a Ukrainian Berkut riot police office in Kyiv on Feb 18, 2014. Even if Russian-occupied Crimea had had the jurisdiction to carry out such a prosecution, the charges were also entirely unprovable. He was, nonetheless, found to have deliberately aimed a cobble stone at the Berkut officer who had suffered a bruise on his left shoulder as a consequence. Kostenko was supposed to have been motivated by a feeling of ideological hatred and enmity to law enforcement officers.

Since the Berkut officer had not been a Russian national at the time of the alleged incident, there was no possibility of keeping Kostenko in detention and then imprisoning him. Kostenko was therefore later also accused of unlawfully obtaining, keeping or carrying the main parts of a firearm). The investigators claimed to have found a rifle barrel when searching his home.

Not one of the official witnesses of the search confirmed that weapons were found in Kostenkos flat. The investigators claimed that Kostenkos father, Fedir Kostenko had identified the gun barrel as belonging to his son. They also claim, however, that it was Kostenko Senior who gave permission for the search.

Fedir Kostenko disappeared shortly after this in circumstances which also arouse concern.

Kostenko was officially detained on Feb 6, but had in fact already been held in custody then for around 24 hours. During that initial period, he received multiple injuries, including a broken arm. The only lawyer present was one appointed by the investigators, and a confession was obtained from Kostenko, as well as a statement that he had been beaten on the street by unidentified individuals.

Kostenko retracted all such confessions as soon as he was able to see to a real lawyer, and Sotnikov is, as mentioned, still challenging the refusal to initiate criminal proceedings over his clients torture.

The Memorial Human Rights Centre has declaredKostenko a political prisoner.

Please write toOleksandr Kostenko

If you can write in Russian, then a few words about yourself would be appropriate, but please avoid politics or any mention of Kostenkos case.

If Russian is not possible, then even a letter with the following will give an important message to both Oleksandr and the Russian authorities that he is not forgotten.

, !

, , .

. !

Hello, Oleksandr, I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released. You are not forgotten. [The last word is like hang in there)

613049 Russia, Kirov oblast, Kirovo-Chepetsk, Prison Colony No. 5, Ovranzhnaya St, 16

( -5, . 16, . -, , 613049 )


see also:
Russian revenge for Maidan extends to Crimean political prisoners brother
Russia flouts its own Supreme Court to revenge Ukrainian Maidan activist
Crimean Maidan activists insane conviction upheld, sentence reduced
Poklonskaya goes after brother of Crimean political prisoner Oleksandr Kostenko
Torture and Legal Thuggery against Maidan Activist
Crimean court refuses to investigate imprisoned Maidan activists torture
Crimean Maidan activist tortured into denying he was tortured
Imprisoned Euromaidan activist disappears
Crimean Euromaidan political prisoners sentence reduced
Euromaidan activist tortured with impunity in Russian-occupied Crimea
EuroMaidan activist sentenced to 4 years on surreal charges
Maidan activist: trial by anonymous witness and scandalous blogger