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Lawyers of "Skhemy" journalists demand a harsher punishment for Metzher

18.01.2023, 10:06
Photo: Radio Liberty
Photo: Radio Liberty

The lawyers of the attacked "Skhemy" journalists are asking the appeals court to change the verdict of the Holosiivskyi District Court of Kyiv in the case of the Ukreximbank attack; the first instance court had fined former bank manager Yevhen Metzher UAH 3,400, Radio Liberty reports.

In the appeal, the victims ask the court for a harsher punishment, namely, to deprive Metzher of the right to hold managerial positions in state bodies, local governments, state or communal enterprises for a period of three years. The consideration of the complaint will begin at the Kyiv Court of Appeal today, January 18, at 12:00 p.m.

"Court decisions which do not give off the message that punishment for obstructing journalistic activity is inevitable have a 'chilling effect' on journalism. This is when journalists feel that the state will not protect them from criminal actions of individuals. And in fact, such decisions act as a 'blessing' for those individuals to keep pestering journalists in their work. It is the application of additional punishment in the form of deprivation of the right to hold certain positions that will allow us to achieve justice, which among other things will prevent new crimes," said a victim's lawyer, Oksana Maksymenyuk.

The panel of judges, which includes Margaryta Vasylieva, Oleksandr Kyiashko and Lyudmyla Kepkal, will consider the appeal. The same meeting is also to consider the appeal filed by former head of the internal security department of JSC "Ukreximbank", Oleh Osipov. He asks to cancel the ruling of the court of first instance, and to close the criminal case against him.

Neither Yevhen Metzher nor the former director of the bank security department of JSC Ukreximbank Ihor Telbizov appealed the decision of the Holosiivsky court.

On November 11, 2022, it became known that the supervisory board of PJSC "Ukrainian Financial Housing Company" ("Ukrfinzhytlo") appointed Yevhen Metzher as the board's chairman. "Ukrfinzhytlo" is a company 100% owned by the state, represented by the Ministry of Economy of Ukraine.

In April 2022, "Skhemy" reported that Metzher was going to be appointed deputy to Minister of Economy Yulia Svyridenko, but the decision was canceled due to the backlash.

As IMI reported, on September 14, 2022, the Holosiivsky District Court of Kyiv imposed a fine on three Ukreximbank employees accused of attacking Skhemy journalists Kyrylo Ovsyany and Oleksandr Mazur. Radio Liberty President Jamie Fly said the court's decision was "a slap on the wrist."

The court found guilty and fined the former Ukreximbank board chairman Yevhen Metzher UAH 3,400, and fined ex-head of the institution's banking security department Ihor Telbizov and head of the internal security department Oleh Osipov UAH 1,700 each.

It was the state accusers (prosecutors) that requested this specific punishment – a fine without deprivation of the right to hold positions.

Volodymyr Pikalov, head of Ukreximbank's information policy department, is also accused in the case, but he has been drafted into the army. The court will make the decision regarding him later.

The journalists' attorney Anatoliy Popov said that the victims were contesting the closing of the criminal proceedings under the most serious article, 146 of the Criminal Code ("Illegal deprivation of freedom or abduction of a person"), which provides for restriction of freedom for a term of up to three years or imprisonment for the same term.

On October 4, 2021, in Kyiv, employees of the state-owned Ukreximbank attacked Skhemy filming crew during the recording of an interview with the financial institution's board chairman Yevhen Metzher right in his office. Being asked about a loan to structures related to the "DPR," Metzher ordered to take away the journalists' cameras, destroy the video recordings of the interview, and prohibit further filming. In addition, the journalists were illegally detained in the office premises, not being allowed to leave it. Ihor Telbizov applied force against the journalists.

There are four defendants in the case – Ukreximbank's former board chairman Yevhen Metzher, ex-head of the bank's information policy department Volodymyr Pikalov, ex-head of the institution's banking security department Ihor Telbizov, and head of the internal security department Oleh Osipov. They pleaded not guilty.

The actions of the former board chairman of the bank Yevhen Metzger and his press secretary have been qualified under Article 171 of the Criminal Code ("Illegal seizure of materials collected by a journalist and their and technical equipment, obstruction of the work of a journalist committed by an official abusing their official position").

The actions of Ihor Telbizov and Oleh Osipov have been classified under two criminal articles – the same Article 171 and Article 121 ("Deliberate violent actions that caused physical pain and did not cause bodily harm").

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