Petrenko Group defendant banned from courtroom as trial nears end

Judges of the Riscani sector court in Chisinau, Moldova, decided on Monday, May 22, to remove one of the members of the “Petrenko Group,” Mikhail Amerberg, from the courtroom until the end of the trial, that is, until the verdict is pronounced.

The formal reason, said the judges, was violation of a public order. However, Amerberg claims that the court denied him the right to reply, and later decided to remove him from the proceedings.

According to the activist, the court has deprived him of his right to a defense. “How can you remove a person at the last hundred meters, before the proclamation of the sentence, and not allow the defendant to defend himself? Neither the judges nor the prosecutors have any questions for me? I guess the sentence is already decided. This is a violation of human rights,” said Amerberg, who posted video footage from the trial on his social media page. Media have been prohibited from the trial. 

Also on May 22, members of the so-called “Petrenko Group” demanded the disqualification of prosecutors Nick Shendri and Aleksandru Archer.

Former MP Gregory Petrenko told MoldNews agency that “we have called for removal of the prosecutors on the basis of the video which shows them planting smoke grenades in my wife’s car.”

The defendants’ motion was dismissed, while Shendri’s petition to remove Mikhail Amerberg from the courtroom was granted.

Translators’ note: The Petrenko Group, members of the opposition party Our Home is Moldova (Red Bloc), are on trial for leading a mass protest against oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc in September 2015. They already spent several months in jail and under house arrest, and continue to be subject to severe restrictions by the court, which is controlled by Plahotniuc’s political accomplices. If convicted, the activists face up to seven years in prison. 

Translated by Greg Butterfield

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