Lviv Human Rights Defender Oleksiy Verentsov jailed for three days
As reported already, on Thursday morning, 14 October, Oleksiy Verentsov, lawyer, human rights activist and organizer of a peaceful protest action on 12 October was arrested.
An attempt had been made to arrest him during the picket outside the Lviv Regional Prosecutor’s Office, but the crowd wouldn’t allow it, chanting "Shame!" The police then turned up at his home and arrested him.
The pickets have been continuing for several days now outside the regional prosecutor’s office in protest at the latter’s lack of activity in criminal and other cases concerning citizens’ rights. According to Andriy Sokolov, Head of the Lviv Regional Education Workers’ Union, there was a coffin into which citizens’ complaints were thrown. "In that way they wanted to say that making a complaint to the Prosecutor’s Office is the same as burying the matter".
There were other lawyers and human rights activists at the picket.
The Head of the Department of Public Relations of the Lviv Regional MIA, Denis Kharchuk, told the Internet publication ZIK (http://zik.com.ua/ua/news/2010/10/14/250321) that Oleksiy Verentsov and another person whose name he did not give were detained for wilfully disobeying the lawful instruction of a police officer. He said that the two were facing charges under Article 185 of the Code of Administrative Offences and that a court ruling was awaited.
Most disturbingly, he asserted that they had been detained while picketing the prosecutor’s office (see above) and that they had not had a permit to do this. Police officers had, he said, called on them to disperse. "In response there were not entirely adequate actions and they had to detain two people", Kharchuk said.
The case went before the Halytsky District Court in Lviv this afternoon. Verentsov’s lawyer was not allowed into the courtroom and the court did not deem it necessary to question witnesses.
Verentsov was jailed for 3 days and his companion to 15 days administrative arrest for defying a lawful instruction from a police officer.
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union points out that in accordance with the Constitution, a permit is not required to hold a picket. The City Council tried to ban the picket through the court however the court turned the application down, and there is no ban in force.
Among the many worrying aspects of this case is the fact that the court also for some reason demands a permit to hold a picket not required by the Constitution. Its Ruling states that:
"Mr Verentsov on 12.10.2010 around 11.30-12.40 unlawfully held a meeting (a street procession) without the relevant permit for this from the Lviv City Council. O. Verentsov did not react to the lawful demands of police officers to stop disrupting the peace. " It goes on to say that instead of going as asked to the Halytsky Police Station, he called the protesters, who shouted and threatened the police with official unpleasantness and insulted them. This supposedly amounted to flagrant disobedience by O. Verentsov of police in protecting public order.
The judge notes that Mr Verentsov acknowledges that he was at the meeting against corruption by the Prosecutor’s Office bodies, but denies the charge against him.
The verdict must certainly be appealed, however it remains deeply disturbing that the arrest and court verdict took place at all.
The protest which supposedly jeopardized public order can be seen here: http://galinfo.com.ua/news/76390.html
Oleksiy Verentsov is the Head of an organization called "Guards of the Law" and a member of an operational group on combating corruption in the Lviv Regional Department of the Security Service [SBU]. This arrest for civic and entirely peaceful protest is highly disturbing and needs public attention.
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