Russia uses Kadyrovs thugs against defence witnesses in Ukrainian political trial
There have been further attempts to prevent defence witnesses appearing at the trial in Grozny of two Ukrainians accused of alleged offences in Chechnya 20 years ago. The court also refused to consider evidence proving that the men were nowhere near Chechnya at the time. Ample evidence of unbreakable alibis has proven as immaterial to the Russian court as the analysis from the world-renowned Memorial Human Rights Centre demonstrating that most of the impugned crimes did not happen at all.
Ukrainian human rights activist Maria Tomak had gathered around 20 pieces of testimony regarding where Mykola Karpyuk was in late 1994 and early 1995, but the court refused to consider them. It did however question Stanislav Klykh’s mother and cousin, as well as Karpyuk’s brothers, and Tomak herself.
The March 17 hearing had been disrupted and Klykh was removed from the courtroom after he became hysterical seeing his 73-year-old mother taken ill. This was the first time Klykh had seen his mother in almost two years. He is reported to have cried “Mama, I was never in Chechnya!” before being taken away.
His mother knows very well that Klykh was never in Chechnya and could not have committed the crimes Russia is accusing the two men of.
She and other relatives of the two men had arrived in Chechnya for an original hearing supposed to take place on March 14. They and Tomak were coming to present the very considerable evidence proving that neither man was anywhere near Grozny in 1994/95. Klykh was a young man at the time, taking history exams at Kyiv University.
Although Judge Vakhid Ismailov had accused the defence lawyers of not being willing to present evidence, when the Ukrainian delegation appeared at the hearings scheduled for March 14, he suddenly ‘fell ill’.
The hearing on March 17 was over the defence’s appeal against the extension of the two men’s detention until May 27. By that time Karpyuk will have been in Russian detention for well over two years, and Klykh for 21 months. There are no grounds for holding the men in detention, however the appeal was – predictably – rejected.
As reported, there are also serious concerns about Klykh’s health. His lawyer Marina Dubrovina has demanded to know what is in the tablets and injections which Klykh has been getting since the middle of February. As well as overt forms of torture, which Klykh still bears the scars of, he has repeatedly spoken of having been given psychotropic drugs during the 10 months before a real lawyer was allowed to see him. His behaviour since the beginning of the trial in October has given grounds for concern, his lawyer says, and certainly at hearings in January, he was very obviously disturbed. Russian doctors examined him and found nothing wrong, however an independent medical assessment is clearly needed. Instead, the court simply threatened to add the charge of ‘contempt of court’ because of Klykh’s behaviour.
There are also clear attempts to keep family and media away from this trial. It was already unlikely that many foreign journalists would attend hearings in Chechnya, but two serious attacks on human rights activists and journalists in the space of just 7 days, as well as an attack on the Ukrainian consul, will make Russian and Ukrainian journalists also concerned about their safety.
There were a suspicious number of athletic-looking young men in the courtroom on March 17, suggesting that Russian ‘titushki’ or hired thugs had been brought in to either simply fill up the courtroom, so that others can’t attend, or to also send a clear message of intimidation.
An hour before the hearing on March 24, Tomak reported that some young guys had turned up. They claimed to be from the migration service though only one could provide ID and accused the Ukrainians of infringing Russia’s laws for being in the country. None of this was true, especially since the relatives have been summoned as defence witnesses. It is ominous that they knew where to come since the Ukrainians were staying in a rented flat, not a hotel. The aim was fairly obviously to stop them giving testimony. They backed off after the Ukrainian consul arrived.
The ploy seems clearly to drive all observers away and refuse to include vital testimony, just as Memorial’s analysis of the historically inaccurate facts, and evidence that the men were never in Chechnya.
The calculation is that the media will become bogged down in recounting complicated charges regarding events from 20 years ago, merely adding that the men deny them.
Like many criminal trials. However, this imitation of a trial is quite different. The story can, and should, be put very briefly.
The men can prove they were not in Chechnya and are therefore innocent.
Memorial HRC has analysed the indictment and found that the men ‘confessed’ to heinous crimes which never happened. The prosecution has not charged them with the entirely fictitious events, but has retained the confessions so that these can be read out and have a negative impact on the jury.
Memorial has also demonstrated that a large number of the soldiers who were killed in fighting did not die in the area where the two Ukrainians are supposed to have been, nor from gunfire as the prosecution claims.
The two men also claimed that they committed these terrible ‘crimes’ together with Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk and a number of other Ukrainian politicians.
All of this is fine for Russian propaganda media, but has no place in a court of law. This, sadly, is why every vestige of a proper trial is being removed.
There is considerable detail in the texts below about this case, which has prompted Memorial to declare both men political prisoners.
Please write to the men - even a single sentence or two will send an important message both to them, and to the Russian authorities, that they are not forgotten.
The addresses: Mykola Karpyuk (in Russian Nikolai)
364037, г. Грозный, Ленинский р-он, ул. Кунта-Хаджи Кишиева, 2. Следственный изолятор №1, Карпюку, Николаю (1964)
364037, г. Грозный, Ленинский р-он, ул. Кунта-Хаджи Кишиева, 2. Следственный изолятор №1, Клыху, Станиславу (1974)
Or send your letters to post.rozuznik[at]gmail.com, a civic initiative helping to get mail to Russian-held political prisoners They will deal with writing the envelope and sending it on. .
If you are unable to write in Russian, the following would be quite sufficient:
Желаем здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеемся на скорое освобождение.
(we wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released).