April 18: The problem of the Petrenko Group political prisoners, under arrest since September 2015 for taking part in anti-oligarchy protests in Chisinau, Moldova, was again in the field of view of members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
PACE members expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that the persecution of the political prisoners in the Republic of Moldova continues, and despite the fact that they were transferred from the penitentiary, they are still under house arrest.
These views were expressed on Monday, April 18, at the opening of the spring session of PACE in Strasbourg in the framework of the presentation of the “Progress Report,” which is one of the main reports of the Assembly, including respect for human rights and the rule of law.
PACE deputies on the arrest of the Petrenko Group
“In fact, respect for human rights is the line which no responsible politician should cross. Otherwise there is a risk that they will undermine the foundations on which European democracy is built, it will be a betrayal of the values that we proclaim. Let me note with great satisfaction the release from prison of an honorary member of our Assembly, Grigory Petrenko, former Vice-Chairman of the Group of the United European Left. I want to thank our co-rapporteurs for Moldova, and all others who contributed to his release from prison. The release should be a victory for democracy and human rights,” said the representative of the PACE Bureau, the Greek delegate Ioanneta Kavvadiya.
In turn, Chair of the Monitoring Committee of PACE, representative of the Socialist Group, MP Stefan Shennah, who visited Moldova in connection with the appearance of political prisoners, said the report, “exposed the wounds that exist in Europe today.”
“Sometimes there is some good news, such as the release of Grigory Petrenko from prison, but he is still not free, only transferred to house arrest. Or the release of 17 political prisoners in Azerbaijan after the intervention of the President of the Assembly and the decisions of the courts, but on the list of Amnesty International there are still seven political prisoners. In these matters we have victories, but there are also defeats. It is important, I think, that we would never have thought that we would have to talk again today about the protection of human rights and return to these serious issues, defending them,” said Stefan Shennah at the PACE session.
Member of the German Bundestag and representative of the Group of the United European Left Andrej Hunko said that the report shows setbacks when large regressions are recorded in many areas, “reflecting the burning and the most serious problems we face.”
“We are now discussing the so-called Progress Report, which deals with human rights, the rule of law. And we should like to develop further in these directions, but, unfortunately, in many areas there were some setbacks in recent months. Mr. Shennah talked about this in his speech. You also mentioned the situation around political prisoners in Moldova. And we visited Grigory Petrenko, who is no longer in prison, but still under arrest, house arrest, and we must do something about it.
On February 22, after nearly six months of detention in prison, the political prisoners, led by former deputy Grigory Petrenko, were transferred to house arrest. The decision was taken by the Court of Riscani Sector based on a request filed by the parliamentary faction of the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM). It should be noted that the hearing was convened urgently, without the consent of the official attorneys and political prisoners, and held behind closed doors. According to the lawyer of the political prisoners Ana Ursachi, the judgment was unauthorized and illegal. And Grigory Petrenko said subsequently that “February 22 was a performance, directed by [oligarch Vlad] Plahotniuc.”
On February 26 the Riscani sector court rejected personal guarantees of members of the European Parliament and PACE, who came especially to Moldova to demand in court the unconditional release of the Petrenko Group political prisoners.
It should be noted that former deputy and opposition party leader Grigory Petrenko and his comrades were recognized as “political prisoners” in the U.S. State Department report on human rights, by representatives of PACE, and recently by the Federal Government of Germany.