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"Watchers" journalist barred from attending an open court hearing

05.02.2024, 12:49
Photo: Alina Kondratenko on Facebook
Photo: Alina Kondratenko on Facebook

"Watchers" journalist Alina Kondratenko was barred from attending an open hearing at the Solomyansk District Court of Kyiv on January 31 in the case about the Motor Sich ex-CEO Vyacheslav Bohuslaev and the company's head of foreign economic activities Oleh Dzyuba, "Watchers" writes.

The journalist was asked to submit a petition "on her wish to be present". Having received none, the media outlet writes, the court security (at the judge's approval) prevented the journalist from attending the hearing, saying that there were not enough seats in the courtroom, mentioning possible explosives inside, the air raid alert and even the lunch break. The defense also cited the presiding judge's order to limit the audience admitted into the courtroom in view of the martial law.

At the same time, the media outlet notes, the participants and journalists who agreed to file a "petition about their wish to be present" were allowed to attend the meeting despite all the listed "obstacles".

The hearing was supposed to start at 12:00. The January 31 session was supposed to be open, as the court itself ruled at the preparatory meeting.

Alina Kondratenko argued to the court security and Judge Serhiyenko's secretary that an open hearing means that non-participants have the right to attend it freely, which is why they are called "free listeners". According to her, the Criminal Procedure Code does not imply the creation or censoring of a list of such listeners, or that they must file individual written requests to attend the meeting, or that there is any system of special written or oral permits for this.

The secretary asked Kondratenko whether she had filed a statement or petition on "wishing to be present at the hearing." The journalist reported that such a request was not provided for by law. However, the secretary said that in this case the journalist would be unable to pass.

IMI media lawyer Roman Holovenko explains: Part 2 of Art. 27 of the Criminal Procedure Code (a perpetrator (co-perpetrator) is a person who, in complicity with other subjects of a criminal offense, directly or through other persons who are not subject to criminal liability for the committed crime, committed a criminal offense provided for by this Code) is quite clear and an open meeting must admit free listeners unless quarantine restrictions are in place.

"The number of seats is not mentioned anywhere. The Solomyansky court order does not explicitly contradict the CPC, as there is no provision in Part 1 that the hearing is to be held in the presence of the participants alone. Free listeners are not mentioned in Part 1 and there is no explicit limitation of presence, as it is guaranteed by Article 27 of the Criminal Procedure Code. After all, no internal act of the court can cancel the Criminal Procedure Code," says the lawyer.

"Watchers" recalled that a similar incident in the Solomyansky District Court of Kyiv happened to a Media Initiative for Human Rights journalist. Maryna Kulinich came to the court at 25 Maksym Kryvonis St. on November 7 at 3:30 p.m. However, security guard Serhiy Meleshko did not let her into the premises, saying that the chairman's order prohibiting free listeners from entering the courtroom during martial law.

In her comment to IMI, Alina Kondratenko noted that the hearing was cancelled, so she could not say whether she would have been allowed to attend it if it had taken place.

She also noted that the Vyshgorod court recently canceled a similar order restricting the admission of free listeners to open hearings, which was introduced in the court earlier in view of the martial law. It was cancelled after her media outlet reported on it, giving it publicity.

"When it was all clear and the explosion report was checked and not confirmed, I asked to be admitted to the hearing again, but the judge came down once again and said that the meeting had been canceled. Finally, she said that I was legally illiterate," added the journalist.

On December 2, 2022, "Watchers" journalist Alina Kondratenko reported that the spokeswoman of the Solomyansky District Court of Kyiv, Alyona Petukhova, tore up her request for access to an open court session in front of her. Petukhova explained to the IMI that she had torn up the printed request because it did not have an electronic signature and did not meet the legal requirements due to this. After the journalist wrote a new request by hand on a new piece of paper and put her signature on it, it was granted.

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