Case over alleged damage by alleged Tax Code protesters returned to court

The Court of Appeal in July returned the criminal case over alleged damage to the granite stone on Maidan Nezalezhnosti [Independence Square] in the centre of Kyiv during the demonstrations against the draft Tax Code late last year to the Shevchenkivsky District Court in Kyiv. This was reported by Serhiy Melnychenko, the Head of the Coalition of Participants in the Orange Revolutions and one of those charged.

He said that the Court of Appeal had thus partially allowed the appeal from the Kyiv Prosecutor against the ruling on 9 April from this same Shevchenkivsky District Court ordering the criminal file to be passed to the Prosecutor to check that the pre-trial investigation had been carried out fully.

The Court however rejected one of the Prosecutor’s demands, that being to appoint a new panel of judges to examine the case, and it will be examined by the previous court makeup.

The Court will begin its examination with a preliminary hearing, but according to Mr Melnychenko no date has yet been set for the examination of the case.

The prosecutions were brought against alleged participants in the small business owners’ protest on Maidan Nezalezhnosti against the Tax Code in November and early December last year, Some apparent concessions were made at the time but then the protesters’ tent camp was forcibly dismantled almost the next day. As well as one person remanded in custody for alleged damage to a car during the protest, there have also been arrests and a criminal investigation into alleged “deliberate damage to the State of more than 200 thousand UAH (roughly 18 thousand euro)”. The claim is that the accused drove metal pikes into the granite stone on Maidan.

Lawyer from the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union who is defending some of the accused, Oleh Levytsky has called this case unique in his legal practice. “For the first time in our history the regime has found a collection of down-and-outs and people who wanted to earn a few kopecks by holding a banner and has accused them of damaging granite covering. This is after the Party of the Regions itself in 2008 erected tents on Maidan, a fair number, if not the most in Maidan’s history, which can even be seen on photographs from the party’s official website.

Now they’ve collected up some innocent people and are stating to the whole world that they’ve found people who entered into a criminal conspiracy to damage the granite stone in the centre of a European capital.”

He added that this was the first time in independent Ukraine’s legal practice that people are facing criminal prosecution for exercising their constitutional right to peaceful assembly

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