Igor Koktysh freed at last
In the Crimea after two and a half years in the Simferopol SIZO [pre-trial detention centre] Belarusian youth activist and rock musician, Igor Koktysh has finally been released. The 29-year-old’s extradition had been sought by Belarus supposedly because he was suspected of committing a serious crime in his own country. As reported already, however, the European Court of Human Rights in December last year found that Ukraine would be violating Article 3 (prohibition of torture and ill-treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights if it sent Igor back to Belarus. The Court also found that there had been a violation of Article 3 over the conditions of Koktysh’ detention and transportation, as well as of Article 5, (the right to liberty and personal security).
In late June last year 70 representatives of human rights organizations signed an appeal calling for Igor Koktysh’ release, and a letter was also presented from Amnesty International.
Igor was released last night and together with his wife, Iryna, who is Ukrainian, set off for Kyiv from where they plan to return to their home in Zhytomyr.
In 2001 Koktysh and another person were charged with murder and robbery, but were that same year acquitted by the Brestskiy Regional Court. The Court emphasised that during their interrogations the two had been subjected to physical and psychological pressure and had been forced to confess, and therefore their confessions during the pre-trial investigation could not be taken into consideration. This decision was upheld on 1 February 2002 by the Supreme Court of Belarus.
On 18 May 2002 these decisions were quashed by the Presidium of the Supreme Court of Belarus under the extraordinary review procedure upon an application (“protest”) lodged by a prosecutor, and the criminal proceedings were resumed.
In June 2002 Koktysh moved to Ukraine, where he was registered by the Zhytomyr passport service. He travelled several times to Poland and married in 2003. Therefore, according to the applicant, he has not been hiding from justice.
On 25 June 2007 he was arrested in Sevastopol, Ukraine
Igor Koktysh told Radio Svoboda that the fact that Ukraine had complied with the demands of the European Court, albeit with a delay of almost 2 months, showed that there was nonetheless democracy here and that it was worth fighting for. “I have become convinced that there is justice and in can be achieved. However the only problem is that it’s hard to achieve. In my case I spent more than two and a half years imprisoned simply because there was no law on extradition. These are basic things that haven’t been resolved, and that’s the problem”
Igor says that he hopes now to rest and recuperate. He adds that he holds no grudge against anybody but that he does plan to continue fighting in the court – for the right to live in Ukraine. The court hearing over his application for refugee status is scheduled for 12 February.
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