Trial by Quota
Four bomb blasts in the centre of Dnipropetrovsk on 27 April 2012 injured 15 people and made world headlines coming just months before Ukraine was to co-host the Euro 2012 Soccer Championship. A month later the enforcement bodies demonstrated their customary disregard for the presumption of innocence by informing the President and public that the culprits had been found and were now safely in custody. The media were just as swift in rendering the role of the judiciary unclear with headlines constantly calling the accused the “Dnipropetrovsk terrorists”.
A year later four men remain in custody with the trial ongoing. Two men – V. Sukachev and V. Fedoryak - are charged with the bomb blasts in Dnipropetrovsk, and others in 2011; the other two – L. Prosvirnin and D. Reva – with acting as accomplices. Very many questions remain unanswered, however the arrest and ongoing detention of one defendant is extraordinary even by Ukrainian standards.
No motive is provided or any proof as such and the impugned offence involves behaviour which would have been manifestly pointless. While it would be rash to suggest that this has not happened before, Ukrainian courts regularly ignore the flimsiest of cases because the accused has signed a “confession”, preferring not to worry about how it was obtained. Dmitry Reva has denied any involvement from the outset and been totally consistent in his testimony. The two men accused of planting the homemade explosive devices both say that neither of the alleged accomplices were involved, and Sukachev even declared a hunger strike in protest at their prosecution.
The investigators accuse Dmitry Reva of having gone to the centre of Dnipropetrovsk to “observe the reaction of the police and public to the explosions, and if necessary pass on information to Sukachev and Fedoryak, so that the latter could coordinate their further actions”.
The initial wording suggested that the two alleged “bombers” still had bombs to plant. In that case, at a pinch, you might just about understand the role attributed Reva. This had to change after it was established that the bombs had been planted well before Reva reached the centre. He was only near two of the bomb blasts which were instantly reported on all media sources in the city. What he could have seen and passed on to the alleged bombers is therefore entirely unclear. That the police had noticed? They could turn on their radios to find that out. Furthermore, journalists were much more in a position to provide information than a person standing on the street. That is, of course, if anyone can imagine what “further actions” this would prompt. There was no reason at all to expect the police to immediately identify suspects.
Reva had a legitimate reason for being in the centre, and there is video footage of him entering and leaving the bank where he paid some money outstanding. Explosive experts have confirmed that there was no way of knowing when exactly a specific bomb would go off. This makes pure nonsense of the alleged criminal intent given that the bombs were in different places, and Reva had to get back from his lunch break. He did not make any calls at all, and the investigators have not produced any evidence to suggest that he would have known how to contact Fedoryak whom all have testified he had never met. This is of particular relevance since the two locations Reva passed were where the bombs allegedly planted by Fedoryak exploded.
Reva and Sukachev studied together at university, and had common friends from those times. At 14.19 Sukachev sent a text message to Reva asking: “Are you OK? None of our lot hurt?”. Reva replied saying: “Yeah, I think so”, and received a second message from Sukachev with the words: “Hades Hell, everything at our end seems to be OK”. Reva has said that “Hades Hell” was typical of Sukachev’s style and that he assumed he was being asked if any of their mutual acquaintances had been hurt by the blasts. Sukachev in fact sent a number of such messages. The recipients were all questioned, only Reva arrested, with the message treated as some kind of coded (but never deciphered) communication.
The SBU from the beginning were looking for 4 people although there is no obvious reason why. The identikit pictures circulated were only sufficient to identify four males and nobody has ever asserted that the four defendants were in the same place at one time. It is, unfortunately, not inconceivable that having started out with four, four it had to be . It should also be noted that the motives suggested for the bomb blasts have kept changing. The investigators and prosecution have shown marked interest in Reva’s freelance work as a political campaign adviser to an opposition MP.
If this seems cynical, so too was the behaviour of the SBU officer who tried to fake evidence while a search was being made of Reva’s flat. Reva had been refused permission to make any calls and asked to hand over the two mobile telephones in the flat which he did. An SBU officer used one of the phones which had Sukachev’s number on the screen to dial that number. This was then presented as an attempt by Reva to contact another suspect and formed the grounds for his being remanded in custody. Reva and his lawyers made a formal complaint and forced a criminal investigation to be initiated into the forging of evidence.
None of the above, not even the fact that the grounds used to justify his initial arrest proved rigged, has had any impact on the court. The judge has now rejected seven applications for Dmitry Reva to be released on bail or on the security of Dnipropetrovsk human rights organizations. The pretexts vary, but one refrain is the “seriousness” of the crime.
Reva’s lawyers clearly demonstrated the lack of logic or indeed of any real element of a crime in the charges brought against him back in October 2012. Now daming confirmation has been received of the lack of any real crime, motive established or other evidence in an independent assessment carried out by a leading Ukrainian legal expert, Mykola Khavronyuk..
One other positive achievement is that a court has ordered the State-controlled TV channel UTV-1 to issue an apology over a scurrilous film with false information about Reva.
The showing on national TV of a film aimed at presenting the four defendants as obviously guilty as well as the prosecution and court’s behaviour suggest that there is strong pressure to convict four men “to plan”. Such quotas are reminiscent of the worst Soviet times and publicity is needed to help thwart a cynical mockery of justice.