Repression gaining pace
The latest apparent victim of efforts to stifle anti-government protest is a lawyer – Viktor Smaliy, who was defending Road Control journalist Andriy Dzyndzya. In present circumstances, the charge should send a shiver down the spine of many a lawyer. This, presumably, is the desired effect.
Smaliy is accused of attempted murder, with his alleged target being the judge hearing the application to detain Dzyndzya in custody. The crime under Article 379 of the Criminal Code carries a sentence of 8-15 years or life imprisonment.
Road Control is adamant that Smaliy did not attack the judge, and believes the arrest to be aimed at depriving Dzyndzya of a defence lawyer and getting rid of Smaliy himself.
Alexei Kirienko, Editor of the Road Control newspaper, explains that Smaliy was detained on Dec 9 after going to the prosecutor’s office with a protester who was beaten by Berkut riot police on Nov 30. There was total secrecy at first with his wife, Alisa, being told quite different stories about where he was.
The news of his arrest on a murder charge probably clarifies only the tactics Ukraine’s leaders have decided to apply.
Andriy Dzyndzya was detained on Dec. 5, together with two MPs’ assistants, one of whom was questioned and released. As reported, they were detained in the afternoon, and taken to the Department for Fighting Organized Crime. Late in the evening, the police were still refusing to allow lawyers (and MPs) in to see the men, a clear infringement of their rights. Rumours were rife that the men had been beaten up and that this was the reason they were being held incommunicado. A large number of EuroMaidan supporters arrived at the scene, and some tried to push their way in.
According to the Ombudsperson’s office following a visit on Dec 6, no evidence of beating was found. It is not clear what Dzyndzya himself has to say on this subject, and now his lawyer has also been arrested.
Dzyndzya was formally remanded in custody on Dec. 6, becoming the 10th person in detention under the article of the Criminal Code on « organizing mass riots ». Both he and fellow journalist Valery Garagutz who was severely beaten by Berkut riot police assert that they were covering the disturbances in their professional capacity.
Eight other people were remanded in custody on Dec. 3, with the appeal hearings scheduled for Tuesday postponed until Dec. 13. Ex-president Leonid Kravchuk stated on Tuesday that the president, Viktor Yanukovych had promised to release some of the detained men from custody, pending trial. What this means in practice remains unclear at present. While those of the detained men who have small children may be of particular concern, the detention of all journalists and protesters, most of whom were severely beaten by law enforcement officers, was unwarranted.
One of the main concerns has been the fact that the people detained over disturbances on Bankova St on Dec. 1 are so obviously different from the masked louts we can all see on the video footage. They are, however, like hundreds of other journalists, and hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters who came out on the pro-European integration demonstration on Dec. 1.
Yanukovych’s promise also coincides with the remand in custody of a lawyer whose actions bear little similarity to attempted murder, and are much like those of lawyers defending clients facing charges over the present peaceful protests.
The appeal on behalf of the journalists and demonstrators remanded in custody over the events on Dec 1 can be endorsed here