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14.06.2016

Ukrainian musician finally freed after 4 years imprisonment on rigged charges

   

The Podilsky District Court in Kyiv has finally released world-renowned accordionist Ihor Zavadsky from custody almost two months after his sentence was revoked. The case has been returned for re-trial but since the sentence was revoked because of the gross irregularities in the prosecution’s material and the original trial, there could be no grounds for holding him in custody.

The case has been called “a mirror for the Ukrainian justice system” by Yevhen Zakharov, Director of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group and one of the three people who stood as personal guarantor for Zavadsky’s release.  Zavadsky is represented by KHPG lawyer Anna Lytvyn. .

As reported, Zavadsky was arrested, together with his agent Andriy Bryhida and driver Andriy Boiko on 23 March 2012.  The charges were grave, of sexual crimes against children, with Zavadsky accused of abusing children who came to him for lessons.  The arrests, however, were made on the basis of a faked complaint, and there is no evidence of any child haven’t complained to his parents about Zavadsky.  There was, in short, no evidence that any crime was ever committed. 

A few months after Zavadsky’s arrest, a TVi documentary suggested that Zavadsky had been set up by a rival.  Whether or not this is true, there were flagrant infringements in this case. 

A video was produced and widely shown, which certainly appeared to give substance to the allegations.  The video footage was supposed to be from a hidden camera long placed by investigators in Zavadsky’s flat and showed a naked man and child.  The video, however, was very clearly of somebody else, with the man on it much more solid than Zavadsky, who is of slight build.  Demands to have an expert assessment of the video’s authenticity were rejected, and the video was not in fact ever used in court.  It had probably achieved its main task of setting the public against the musician.

Zavadsky had just had an operation on his retina when he was taken into custody.  During the first night after his arrest, he was beaten, including around the head until he lost consciousness, by between 5 and 7 police officers.  The severe damage to his eyesight, as well as evidence of other torture, is documented and forms part of Zavadsky’s application to the European Court of Human Rights.  So too does the refusal of the court to accept Zavadsky’s complaint of torture during the initial detention hearing on March 26 when there would have been visible signs confirming his allegations. 

The number of gross irregularities in this case was huge.  There is evidence that minors were taken to the Shevchenkivsky police station and interrogated without their parents’ knowledge or consent.  The claimed victims were placed under heavy police pressure, which included the threat of criminal proceedings against their parents.  The formal decision to not bring criminal charges was only signed after the case had been passed to the court.  Please see the texts below for more details.

None of this stopped the same court which had acknowledged many of the infringements from sentencing Zavadsky to 13 years in July 2014. 

The appeal hearings then only began a year later in August 2015 and lasted until April 2016.  Then the case was thrown out, yet Zavadsky has had to wait until June 13 to be freed.

 

Halya Coynash

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