Moldova: Political prisoner Grigory Petrenko abused by jailers

On Sunday night, October 18, Former Member of Parliament, honorary member of PACE, opposition party leader and now political prisoner Grigory Petrenco was attacked and his cell ransacked by unknown persons in plainclothes, who identified themselves as employees of the Department of Penitentiary Institutions (DPI). This was stated by attorney Ana Ursachi, who noted that the safety of Grigory Petrenko and the other political prisoners is threatened.

In Chisinau, activists demand freedom for Grigory Petrenko and
anti-fascist youth of Red Bloc, Oct. 24.
Photo by Alina Rutich
The lawyer for the political prisoner informed the media on Friday, October 23, of a letter received from Grigory Petrenko in the penitentiary, which he asked to have read out to the press.

Grigory Petrenko wrote that “immediately after the recent change of leadership of the Department of Penitentiary Institutions of the Ministry of Justice, its complete subordination to oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc through the appointment as department head of a man accused of falsifying evidence in the April 7 case, I had an incident with representatives of said department.

“On the evening of October 18, 2015, three men in civilian clothes, who introduced themselves as officers of the Department of Penitentiary Institutions, entered my cell. Without providing identification, the people in civilian clothes began to conduct a search of my cell, including a personal search.

“The so-called representatives of the DPI were aggressive and arrogant. All the items in the chamber were overturned and scattered, all my personal records and letters were read, and I was repeatedly subjected to ill-treatment. Afterward, the search wasn’t written up. I think that such actions are not random, but are carried out on orders. This is nothing but intimidation and political violence. Unfortunately, I must admit that after such incidents involving unidentified individuals in plainclothes, who have free access to my cell, my safety and that of the other political prisoners is threatened. I ask you to intervene in order to prevent political repression,” reads the letter from Grigory Petrenko to the media.

According to lawyer Ana Ursachi, “Everything Petrenko says and his suspicions that his security is threatened are justified, since Alexander Pynzar, who was appointed head of the DPI on October 9 on the proposal of the Democratic Party, is currently on trial. Grigory Petrenko only awaits trial, but Pynzar is already on trial for tampering with evidence in the April 7 case. I am a lawyer for victims who suffered as a result of Pynzar’s actions.

“The violence that began after Pynzar’s appointment worries me most in terms of Grigory Petrenko’s safety. For people in civilian clothes, people who don’t identify themselves, people who have access to the prison on a Sunday evening, to enter the penitentiary without the knowledge of their superiors is a gross violation of the law. Even if the head of the DPI says that its employees have the right to make unannounced inspections, you know that this would never take place without the knowledge of the chief of the penitentiary, as was done in this case. Prison staff are not permitted to remain unidentified when presenting themselves,” said Ursachi.

“The fact that Grigory Petrenko was subjected to harsh treatment and mental pressure, while imprisoned in an institution headed by a person who is accused in the April 7 case, is a clear signal that acts of revenge can happen at any time,” said the lawyer.

The leader of the opposition party Red Bloc, former MP, and honorary member of the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe Grigory Petrenko was among seven protesters forcibly detained by police on September 6 after protests in front of the Prosecutor General’s Office and an attempt to set up tents on the sidewalk outside the institution for an ongoing peaceful protest against the oligarchic regime. All of them have been in jail since September 6.

The detention and arrest of the protesters sparked criticism from international organizations, European institutions, and politicians in several countries, who demanded their immediate release from custody.

Moreover, in the framework of the PACE autumn session, 32 deputies from all factions, representing 20 countries, signed a written declaration on the “Petrenko case,” in which they “clearly demand from Moldova the immediate release of all political prisoners.” Thus, according to lawyers, PACE recognized jailed Grigory Petrenko and his companions as “political prisoners” and oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc as a “threat to democracy.”

Translated by Greg Butterfield

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