No Duress? Telling Details in the Zaporizhya Church Bomb Case
The case of three young men tried over the bomb which exploded in the Svyato-Prokovsk Church, Zaporizhya on 28 July 2010 continues to cause grave concern. The following excerpts from the first interrogations of two of the three young men give some idea why.
All three defendants have retracted their confessions and assert that they were made under physical and psychological pressure, including beatings, threats, some combined with menacing behaviour: the two brothers have both recounted being held without food or water (during a 40 degree Celsius heat wave) and not allowed to sleep.
Anton wrote four quite different confessions.
The first two official psychological assessments found that the men gave their evidence under severe psychological pressure. The judge then ordered a third assessment from an institute with equal authority. That found no psychological pressure.
No attempt has ever been made to avoid using the defendant’s full names: Anton Kharytonov (b/ 1985) and his elder brother Serhiy Dyomin (b. 1977; Yevhen Fedorchenko (b/ 1966). For ease in English, they are referred to by first names only.
The explosion occurred in the afternoon of 28 July 2010. Early the next afternoon, Anton, in the company of his mother, sat in a park talking to a Security Service Officer for a couple of hours about the Church, internal conflicts, gossip etc. The officer left, thanking them for their information.
That evening President Yanukovych was televised demanding that the crime be solved within the week and being promised by the head of police that this would be done.
On 30 July a police car arrived and took Anton and his mother to the police station. This was supposedly so that Anton could look at a photo.
They arrived at the police station at around 10.30 a.m. and were led to different places. Olha Dyomina only saw her son late in the evening.
Their arrival at the police station was not registered. No suggestion was given that Anton had been detained, and his mother therefore took no measures to call a lawyer.
The lawyers, who largely just sit passively through the interrogations, were provided by the police. Anton was advised by his to “confess” and then they’d “sought it out” in court.
The first official interrogation thus took place around 14 hours after Anton arrived at the police station, with no lawyer representing his interests.
Anton has learning difficulties and would seem to have been cruelly ridiculed during the day, as well as placed under various forms of pressure.
The officers were “unable to remember” why, during the interrogation, it can be seen that the pockets of his trousers have been cut out. Anton says that the forms of intimidation used included threats to cut off his genitals.
The first two psychological assessments found that Anton had been largely asked closed, and very often, leading questions.
First Interrogation of Anton Kharytonov, 30 July 2010 (the words in italic and round brackets are those spoken by the female investigator)
[Beginning of video footage: 23 hours, 55 minutes]
1. (Do you have a computer at home?) no
2. (So you don’t use the Internet?) I don’t use the Internet. (right) ….
3. (Anton have you had a good think, have you just now told me everything that you know?) I need to think now.
4. (or should I give you a moment to think?) Maybe I can remember something else?
5. (I’d just like to so to speak remind you again that we’re not simply having a chat, isn’t that right?) yes
6. (you understand, I just want to remind you once again that a sincere confession and remorse will somehow soften your guilt, that’s the first thing, and secondly, there’ll be a completely different attitude to you already during the investigation if you talk with me and sort of tell me everything openly?) well, I didn’t blow up the church
7. (but who blew it up?) I didn’t blow up the church
8. (who blew it up??) (for some reason I believe you that you didn’t blow it up) I didn’t blow it up.
9. (well, it seems to me that you know who did it) no, well I can make all kinds of guesses
10. (and without guessing ?) well definitely I can’t
11. (well it seems to me that you know мне кажется вы знаете) (let’s take a break for a minute, I’ll go and take a tablet) can I go with you?
[break in the taping OO hours, 40 minutes]
[The “minute” lasted over half an hour]
Video cassette replaced, taping resumed at 1 hour 15 minutes
1. (Anton, I still want to return to my question and I’m really asking you again. So, I’m reminding you of your rights, duties, and I’m reminding you once again about the norms of the article that soften and I’m asking you the question: do you know anything about the crime committed and who committed it, and how it was committed?) who committed and how кто совершил и как совершил [psychologist notes that he is speaking in a quiet voice]] (well?) … well, a week before I met with Vasya, on Tuesday, and he showed in a packet, well this, what do you call it … device, , I told him not to, you shouldn’t do that, that will end badly, you shouldn’t do that, take it away, take it anywhere, give it up.
2. (you mean you met Vasya by chance in Amstore?) not in Amstore, we met
The account of how Anton met “Vasya” with a plastic bag, and the “fireworks” he planned for the church goes on for some time. Anton has particular difficulty when asked what the bag contained, but most questions are answered in a very vague and uncertain manner. He mentions the diminutive forms of some of Vasya’s friends;
34 (well and what relation do they have to the explosive device?) I think yes, they don’t have any relation to the explosive.
35 (Who does?) well, I don’t know his other friends, … these pyrotechnics
36 (so he has pyrotechnic friends?) well, there probably is somebody.
37 ((there probably is somebody yes?) so says, somebody did it [the psychologist notes that the tone of his voice lowers considerably]
The interrogator then asks how long they spoke, and about contact after the explosion. He didn’t meet him after it, hasn’t seen him.
She asks what he thought about the explosion, remembering this conversation I week earlier.
He says: “Well, somehow, you know, I’d forgotten about that time, I thought, anything could have happened, maybe something at the market had exploded, maybe in the church something had exploded”
The interrogator again asks with apparent incredulity how he could have forgotten, then whether they had spoken that day. He uses the same words as hers, saying that they hadn’t.
She asks “on the telephone” and he replies that “on the telephone in the evening he rang me”.
Most of what he says is prompted by the interrogator, and sometimes nonsense, for example, saying that Vasya smiled, though this was supposedly a telephone conversation.
Vasya, whose home he has never been to, is, he says, 16 years old.
The psychologist’s comment is in square brackets and in bold].
75 – 89 on the transcript
75 (Has your testimony been given voluntarily?) …. [during a long pause he longs around, especially to where there should be a lawyer] well, I don’t know, probably voluntarily
76 (what does probably mean, you told me now, what, did I drag you by the tongue?) no, you didn’t drag me by the tongue, so voluntary (voluntary)
77 (So the video recording of the investigative activity will now be stopped, I want to ask you a question, when Vasily showed you the explosive device, did you understand that his joke, intention to explode the device in the church could end badly for members of the congregations and … people who served in the church?) No, I didn’t understand that to the end because, well I sort of hoped that he wouldn’t do it, that commonsense would somehow win out and … it wouldn’t come to such a thing, someone can or I will stop it or somebody else (I understand).
The interrogator asks the lawyer provided by the investigator if he has no
questions. The man has none. She is noted by the psychologist as raising her
voice as Anton continues to say “I guess” (on this occasion having been asked if
he has any comments about the interrogation.
A day later, a second interrogation held at night begins with Anton being asked what else he has to tell them. He answers: “I want to inform, well say a sincere confession that I am sort of guilty of this incident”.
He says that he placed the packet with the bomb in the church but that his brother, Serhiy, made it, although it was all his plan which he did not “to the end reveal” to his brother.
The interrogation is very long, and reasonably incoherent.
The confession does not in fact match the final indictment, nor do any of the FOUR which Anton made during this period before lawyers representing his and Serhiy’s interests appeared (from September 2010).
Serhiy Dyomin had been held in custody for even longer - from the evening of 30 July - before his first interrogation on 1 August 2010
He alleges that he was severely beaten, placed under psychological pressure, and also deprived of food, drink and sleep.
The available material includes an investigative experiment where Serhiy tries to explain how he supposedly prepared the explosive device. Explosives experts so totally pulled this to pieces and said that he simply would not have had the knowledge to make the bomb which actually exploded. The version was therefore changed to one where Serhiy “bought the device from an unidentified person”.
Until December 2010 the indictment included both versions.
During the first minutes of the interrogation, Serhiy is asked about his education, work and interests.
The questions then turn to Anton and why he stopped serving as sacristan at the Svyato-Pokrovsk Church. He says that there was some kind of conflict because the management changed, but says that he knew no more details. He asserts that Anton began working with his mother who sells coffee and tea, and that he forgot all about the church.
Suddenly he is asked to say what he knows about the events of 28 July 2010. He asks if the interrogator is talking about the bomb, and when asked to say what he knows says… I know that I put together the explosive device … my brother brought it to the church… set it up and there was an explosion.
Serhiy’s “confession” is, as mentioned, at odds with the facts and with the final indictment. He claims to have found the information on making the bomb on the Internet, but can’t remember the sites.
The transcripts of all these interrogations can be translated if necessary. Serhiy, together with the others, has retracted his confessions. Why would a person “confess” to a crime that even the prosecution is not accusing him of anymore if he was not placed under duress? And if, as he alleges, the first confession was beaten out of him, is there any reason to believe that the confession to “buying the bomb of an unidentified person” is not?
This case abounds in unanswered questions, discrepancies and irregularities which unfortunately the court has consistently tried not to notice.