14:21 Nov. 23, 2016
Halya Coynash from the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group reveals the horrible details of Russian persecution of Ukrainian political prisoners
The sentence passed on Nov 21 adds a month to Russia's 20-year sentence against Ukrainian Stanislav Klykh, but its cynicism is of extraordinary brutality. Klykh was accused of ‘contempt of court', allegedly seen in his ‘insulting a prosecutor'. The behaviour in question had been one of the numerous signs that Klykh was in a seriously disturbed state after the 10 months in which Russia held him totally incommunicado, subjecting him to torture and filling him with psychotropic drugs.
Caucasian Knot reports that on Nov 21, Judge Akhtem Shailov from the Zavodsky District Court in Grozny convicted Klykh of ‘insulting a prosecutor' and sentenced him to 240 hours of compulsory labour, but then this was replaced by one month's imprisonment. It seems that the prosecutor demanded 1.5 months' imprisonment, but there are no grounds for seeing Shailov's sentence as lenient. There had been no ‘contempt of court', and the very prosecution was a cruel mockery of Klykh.
There had never been any investigation into both men's allegations of torture, including, in Klykh's case, the application of psychotropic drugs, nor any independent psychiatric assessment. His lawyer Marina Dubrovina had sought a psychiatric investigation from the outset, but any checks carried out were totally perfunctory. An examination was finally ordered in January after Klykh showed overtly disturbed behaviour in court. The ‘examination' by the Russian prison service's psychiatrists resulted in Klykh receiving an improbable clean state of health and then being forcibly administered unidentified drugs. These were probably heavy-duty tranquilizers, but his lawyer's attempts to ascertain their nature were fruitless.
Klykh and Mykola Karpyuk were both sentenced in May 2016 to 20 and 22.5 years' imprisonment, respectively, in what Zoya Svetova, a prominent rights activist, has called "one of the most insane and monstrously falsified prosecutions initiated against Ukrainian nationals since the annexation of Crimea".
There had been, Svetova wrote, "an unequivocal order to arrest Ukrainian nationalists" who were to describe alleged crimes committed by the then Ukrainian prime minister Arseny Yatsenyuk, the leader of the national Right Sector Dmytro Yarosh, and other high-ranking Ukrainians. "And this was done".
Russia claimed that Klykh and 53-year-old Karpyuk had (together with Yatsenyuk, Yarosh, etc.) taken part in fighting in Chechnya 20 years ago and that during battles in Dec 1994 and Jan 1995 they had killed 30 Russian soldiers. Karpyuk was accused of creating and leading a band called ‘Viking' and Klykh of taking part in it. The case was entirely based on their ‘confessions' extracted during the period when they were deprived of contact with their families, real lawyers, and the consul. The only other ‘evidence' came from probably wrong testimony provided by a Ukrainian national Oleksandr Malofeyev already serving a 23-year sentence and directly dependent on the Russian prison authorities for life-saving medication.
The respected Memorial Human Rights Centre has followed both Russia's wars in Chechnya and was therefore well-placed to assess the prosecution's case. In a four-part analysis, it demolished the entire indictment and left no doubt about the methods that had been used to extract insane ‘confessions' to heinous crimes supposedly committed together with Yatsenyuk & Co. The methods included threats to apply the same torture to Karpyuk's wife and small child.
It was on the basis of this devastating assessment of the charges that in February 2016 Memorial declared both men political prisoners.
In its analysis, Memorial HRC demonstrated that the indictment contained fictitious crimes, a huge number of factual mistakes and was almost totally based on testimony which the men had retracted. Some of the lurid confessions were too heinous crimes which had simply never happened. These, Memorial was convinced, had been left in the indictment deliberately. Since there were no charges, the defence was not given the chance to demonstrate this, unlike the prosecutor who could read the nonsense out to influence the jury.
Of the 30 Russian soldiers who died, 18 were killed in another place altogether, and a further eleven were not killed by gunfire, as the prosecution claimed. Only one man had died, as per the prosecution's story, of gunfire, but not from the type of gun that investigators claim was used.
Historical fact, alibis and the sheer absurdity of most of the ‘confessions' proved immaterial both to the first instance court and to Russia's Supreme Court which on Oct 26, 2016, upheld the sentences.
The impact on Stanislav Klykh has been devastating and he very clearly needs an independent psychiatric assessment and to be released on medical grounds. Instead, Russia has concocted a second, monstrously cynical ‘trial'.