Ukrainian Editor Arrested and Jailed for the Crime of Speaking Freely

This article originally appeared at Polit Navigator. It was translated by Kristina Rus at Fort Russ

The Kiev Court of Appeals refused to change the sentence of the leader of the opposition Workers’ Party of Ukraine, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper “The Working Class”, People’s Deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of III and IV convocations, Alexander Bondarchuk.

The politician and journalist was arrested on March 18 under paragraph 1, article 110 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine “Violation of territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine” for publishing of two articles in his newspaper that the SBU [secret police] considered a threat to the territorial integrity of Ukraine. To support the defendant came his fellow party members, leaders of PSPU (Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine), Natalia Vitrenko and Vladimir Marchenko, as well as activists of the Communist party, of which previously Bondarchuk was a member.

At the moment we were no able to find the materials in question in open sources, for distribution of which the editor of the “Working class” is blamed, because the site is blocked. At the same time, the lawyer of the opposition activist quoted the expert’s conclusion on the basis of which the SBU investigator requested the arrest.

“Alexander Bondarchyuk – victim of repression”

“Calls to transfer the enterprises of the oligarchs into state ownership, to nationalize enterprises, to nationalize the land, to start the eradication of corruption and bureaucracy and not to ignore the socio-economic interests of the people” – the lawyer quoted the expert opinion. – “Other materials contain indirect call for the establishment of statehood and independence of Novorossia. Thus, these materials, firstly, contain no direct appeals to change state borders, and, secondly, contain just slogans that are inherent in the Communist or post-Communist ideology.”

Also the lawyer said that his client as a journalist and opposition politician enjoys the rights provided for in the article 34 of the Constitution of Ukraine and article 10 of the European Convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

In turn, the defendant emphasized that he has his own beliefs that he plans to defend in court.

“I want to prove in court that I used my constitutional right that is guaranteed to me by article 34 of the Constitution of Ukraine,” said Bondarchyuk. “I also want the trial to be held and I am not going to destroy any evidence. The investigator has everything. I do not deny the collected evidence and facts. Yes, I am the editor of this newspaper. Yes, I have selected the material and posted it, knowing that it will spread.”

“Why didn’t you, if you saw this article as the editor, have a conversation with the staff not to publish this article, but rather to go to the members of the National guard, to see what they are doing?” – asked the judge – “Please tell me, what caused the need to print this article so suddenly, immediately, without discussion?”.

The defendant replied that he has his own understanding of the conflict in Donbass.

“In order to preserve the territorial integrity of Ukraine, we must understand all the circumstances, all parties, all the essence of this conflict,” – said Bondarchyuk.

Nevertheless, the court dismissed the appeal and upheld the arrest of the opposition leader for 60 days. Those present in the courtroom met the court’s decision with chants [of] “Shame!”
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