Zhytomyr journalists present during arrest of Ihor Koktysh summoned to the police
Journalists from the Zhytomyr newspaper “20 millions”, Dana Minayeva and Oksana Trokoz, who is also a special correspondent for TV Channel 5, have been summoned to appear at the Zhytomyr Regional Department of the MIA on 19 November.
As reported, the journalists were present during the arrest on 3 November by members of a drugs squad of six people, including Belarusian opposition figures: the coordinators of Amnesty International in Ukraine Igor Koktysh and his wife Iryna Tiutunnyk; Artyom Dubsky, recognized by AI as a prisoner of conscience, Tetyana and Vitaly Tyshchenki as well as Oleksiy Zakshevsky (not mentioned in the original report – translator).
The journalists arrived after Iryna Tiutiunnyk rang and informed that police in plain clothes had burst into their flat and bound them. Oksana Trokoz says that the officers twisted her arms, and removed the newspaper’s Canon video recorder.
The public relations department of the Zhytomyr Regional MIA confirmed that the press representatives had “interfered in the specific nature of the work of law enforcement structures”.
Igor Koktysh emphatically disagrees. He says that the two journalists gave their names and showed their identification. He says the officers let them in, but warned them that they couldn’t take any photographs, to which the journalists agreed. The camera was removed after one of the journalists asked a question trying to ascertain what was happening. Mr Koktysh says that they heard an altercation and the camera being taken away with the use of force.
Oksana Trokoz says that the camera has still not been returned. The legal department of the publishing house which the newspaper is part of is lodging complaints against the officers’ actions with the prosecutor’s office and the SBU [Security Service]. Ms Trokoz has also turned to the Minister of Internal Affairs.
Oleh Levytsky, lawyer from the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union confirms that the journalists were forcibly removed from the premises. He says that the arrest was unwarranted, the officers’ entry into the flat unlawful. They effectively wrenched consent from the landlady to view the place, with this turning into a search which took place without a court order or the consent of the occupants. It was they who needed to give permission, not the landlady.
He says that the entire operation raises a lot of questions. Those present were made to lie their faces to the floor, although when there are no grounds for believing that people have committed any offence, they usually take part in the viewing or search, together with the witnesses. The witnesses arrived together with the officers and called each others by name. They then found 10 grams of marihuana and for some reason arrested 6 people, which is a serious violation.
According to Igor Koktysh, the six of them were taken to three different police stations where they were not allowed contact with their parents, close ones or lawyers. They were held like this for three days which they consider akin to torture, without permission to speak with a lawyer.
The first interrogation lasted all night. Mr Koktysh says that the investigators asked about drugs and about the journalists and said that it was because of the latter that there was such a scandal.
He asserts that it was clear that the police were trying to whiten their image by throwing dirt at those detained and at the journalists. While writing up the explanations, he says, the police tried to influence the nature of the information. “They didn’t want us to write how it all was, and that was why force was used against Artyom Dubsky”.
Igor’s toe was broken during the detention. “When they brought me to the medical examination people, the doctors didn’t examine me. They said “Well, there was no beating!” which was not a question, but a statement”.
After being accused of possession of drugs, the detained were released.
Igor Koktysh is convinced that this is a provocation by the Belarusian Security Services. He says that the drugs squad does not normally engage in such things, that they are concerned with large amounts of drugs. There is an election campaign underway in Belarus, and they are able to do more than human rights defenders back in Belarus.
He says that they were threatened during and after the detention, and it is not clear what will be now.
On 8 November, those detained held a press conference where they carried out a reconstruction of the detention for the Zhytomyr media. They have also turned to Amnesty International and the Human Rights Ombudsperson.
From a report at: