Today, on 28 December 2017, the Orenburg District Court was supposed to examine the appellate appeals of three victims against the verdict of the former police officers. However, lawyer with the Committee Against Torture Vyacheslav Dyundin, representing the interests of the victims, upon his arrival to the court, to his surprise found out that appellate appeals were examined a month ago without involvement of the victims or their representative. Then the court dismissed the complaints and upheld the verdict. Human rights defenders intend to insist on quashing this court ruling.
As we have previously reported, on 18 September 2017, the Dzerzhinskiy District Court of Orenburg announced a verdict with regard to Albert Akmanov and Vasily Zoubikhin, who were charged of committing the crime under parts «a, b» Part 3 Article 286 of the Criminal Code of the RF («abuse of office using violence and special equipment»). The court re-qualified the defendants’ deed to Part 1 of Article 286 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (“abuse of office”) and sentenced the defendants to one year of prison term each, however, they will not be serving it due to expiry of the period of limitations.
The background of the case is the following. On 27 August 2008, eighteen-year old Vyacheslav Sadovskiy and Anton Ferapontov as well as nineteen-year old Maksim Nimatov applied to the Orenburg office of the Committee Against Torture. They reported to human rights defenders that on 25 August 2008 they were detained by the police, taken to the Dzerzhinskiy District Department of Internal Affairs where they were battered and brutally tortured. For the whole night police officers were trying to obtain confession statements from them related to a number of different crimes: from the robbery of the beer stand to murder of the police officer. According to the applicants, in addition to «standard» battery the police put gas masks on their heads and blew cigarette smoke into the tube, hung them by the hands and legs tied behind their backs, everything was accompanied by battery with truncheons.
The victims state that the tortures lasted till the morning of August 26. The detainees were deprived of sleep and if they started falling asleep they were hit on the head.
The victims’ parents and other relatives, having accidentally learned that their sons are detained by the police, kept the watch near the building of the Dzerzhinsky District Police Department. It is worth pointing out the fact that for a long time the police tried to convince them that their sons were not in the building of the District Police Department. Only by the evening of 26 August the police allowed the lawyers to see the young men. Despite the fact that the police officers threatened them with harsher treatment in case they change their testimony, the young men reported in the presence of the lawyers that they were forced to incriminate themselves under torture and to sign some documents.
The police officers illegally detained the young men for over 24 hours without making any charges. After the young men were released they first went to the first-aid station, and then to hospital, where the doctors registered all numerous bodily injuries: all the three were diagnosed with hematomas, bruises, joints dislocations, one of them was diagnosed with cerebral concussion, Vyacheslav Sadovsky had a broken rib, and Anton Ferapontov had a broken nose.
On the next day, all the three young men and their parents applied to the investigative authorities with a crime report. The victims also applied to the Committee Against Torture for legal help.
Despite the traumas, confirmed by medical documents and numerous testimonies of witnesses who saw the young men without any bodily injuries at the moment of their apprehension, and testimonies of witnesses who saw the beaten-up victims covered in blood taken out from the building of the Dzerzhinsky District Police Department, the investigative authorities dragged their heels initiating the criminal case. The check of the crime report that should have been conducted within three days lasted over five and a half years. No less than seventeen times the Investigative Department issued refusals to initiate criminal proceedings, which were declared illegal after the Committee Against Torture lawyers’ complaints.
Human rights defenders also managed to prove in court that the young men apprehension was illegal and to collect from the state the compensation for moral damage incurred by this illegal action.
Taking into account the persistent reluctance of the investigative authorities to investigate this incident at the national level, in spring of 2014 the members of the Committee Against Torture had to lodge a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of the applicants. Practically at the same time when it was lodged on 9 April 2014 the investigative authority initiated the criminal case based on the facts described above. The investigation of the case was assigned to the first department for investigation of major cases of the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of the RF for the Orenburg region.
On 17 December 2015 the Dzerzhinsky District Court of Orenburg started to examine this case. For eight months of judicial investigation fifteen court hearings were conducted, during which all the evidence available in the case were examined, the defendants, victims and numerous witnesses were questioned. Judicial investigation, as main part of the judicial proceedings, was conducted in full scope.
Oral arguments were scheduled for 5 August of this year. However, in the course of this court hearing State Prosecutor Svetlana Trofimova submitted a motion asking to return the criminal case to the Prosecutor’s Office to rectify the breaches of the indictment. In the opinion of Mrs Trofimova it was not complete: no details of illegal actions of each of the defendants were provided, since the defendants’ actions correlate with the bodily injuries of each of the victims, which is a violation of the defendants’ right to know what exactly they are accused of.
The court satisfied this motion and the criminal case was returned to the Prosecutor. After corrective measures with regard to investigation and indictment approval were applied the criminal case was sent back to court for examination of its merits.
The relitigation lasted for over half a year. During the oral arguments, the State Prosecutor asked to impose a penalty in the form of imprisonment: for Albert Akmanov – 3 years and six months prison term, for Vasily Zubikhin – 4 years prison term. The ex-police officers did not admit their guilt in their last word.
The lengthy criminal proceedings resulted in the verdict which was passed on 18 September. Judge Aleksey Kovalenko considered that it was not proved that Akmanov and Zubikhin inflicted bodily injuries to the victims, however, declared them guilty of illegal apprehension of the young men and keeping them at the District Department of the Interior. That is why the court re-qualified charges for a softer crime definition – abuse of office without qualifying criminal elements, such as applying violence and special equipment. The court sentenced each of the defendants to one year of prison term, having released them from penalty due to the expiry of the period of limitations. In addition, the court passed a decree addressed to head of the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Orenburg region Sergey Kolotov with relation to the red tape committed in the course of the investigation of the crime.
Dissatisfied with the conclusions of the court of the first instance, which requalified the crime of ex-policemen for a lighter element of crime, the victims applied to the Orenburg Regional Court with appellate appeals against the verdict. In addition, the convict’s defense lawyer Albert Almanov submitted an appellate appeal, as well, –
Today lawyer with the Committee Against Torture Vyacheslav Dyundin, representing the interests of the victims, arrived to court for participating in the court hearing, however, upon his arrival it turned out that the court had examined the submitted appellate appeals a month ago without involvement of the victims and their representatives – this has been covered at the official website.
“We think that once again the right to access to justice has been brutally violated in this case. Firstly, it has been violated by the investigative authority which did not initiate criminal proceedings for a long time; later on, the victims’ rights were violated by the court of the first instance, which at first sent the case back to the prosecutor, and then passed the sentence that allowed the defendants to avoid the real responsibility for the crime they committed, – Vyacheslav Dyundin thinks. – And, lastly, the regional court simply examined the appellate appeals of my clients in the wrong date, different to the one it had notified us about previously. Today I have applied to the chairman of the regional court in connection with the situation. After we receive the copy of the appellate ruling, we shall apply to the court of cassation requesting to quash the court ruling which was taken without our participation”.