Moldova: New evidence of frame-up in Petrenko Group case as trial nears end

Petrenko Group accuses prosecution: One of the defendants says prosecutor forced him to give false testimony

By Marina Supac,

The trial of the “Petrenko Group” took an unexpected turn. At a hearing held on May 24 at the Metropolitan Court of the Riscani sector, a statement was presented by defendant Sergei Ivanchuk that the prosecutor Nick Shendri forced him to testify against the leader of the party Our Home is Moldova” Grigory Petrenko. Details by NM reporter Marina Supac from the courtroom.

Grigory Petrenko, Pavel Grigorchuk and Alexander Roshko in court May 24.
Photo: Nina Supac
It was expected that on Wednesday, May 24, the court would hear only the accused. However, after defendant Pavel Grigorchuk gave his testimony, Grigory Petrenko asked for the floor to supplement the statements made at the hearing on May 23. Prosecutors Nick Shendri and Ion Brinza ready to write the words of Petrenko as they recorded all the previous testimony of the accused. However, after the politician’s first words they began to whisper.

Grigory Petrenko read a statement signed on May 15 this year the accused Sergei Ivanchuk and certified by lawyer Roman Aronovym, who represents the of interests Petrenko. Ivanchuk himself was not in the hall. A day earlier, the judge removed him from the process up to sentencing because of the fact that he appeared at the hearing in a state of alcoholic intoxication. The man explained his state by “noting” the next pregnancy of his wife.

In the statement by Ivanchuk (a copy was made available to NM) says that Attorney Nick Shendri in October 2015 “summoned Sergei Ivanchuk.” Ivanchuk was then under preventive arrest in the capital penitentiary number 13, accused of mercenary activities (Article 141. Criminal Code of the Republic of Moldova). “He made me an offer, saying that if I wanted to see my wife and children, and if I want to get a suspended sentence, then in court I must testify against Gregory Petrenko,” wrote Ivanchuk.

Ivanchuk admitted that he agreed to the deal. As a result, he was transferred to house arrest, and then released on bail. Concurrently, his case was added to that of the Petrenko Group. In turn, according to Ivanchuk, he was to tell the court that on the eve of the protest organized on September 6, 2015, Petrenko invited him, as someone “having combat experience, to assist with organizing a riot near the General Prosecutor’s Office.”

Ivanchuk is certain that prosecutor Nick Shendri put unlawful pressure on him “to compel me to give the court a false testimony against Grigory Petrenko.” In conclusion, the defendant said that prior to the merger of his criminal case with the case of the “Petrenko group,” he was not familiar with the politician.

Sergei Ivanchuk’s letter detailing prosecution pressure
to give false testimony against Petrenko Group.
The prosecutors obviously did not expect this turn of events. Shendri jumped up and sharply began to argue about why the Ivanchuk statement could not be appended to the case. Mainly Shendri raged that the document was signed by Petrenko’s attorney, not the lawyer of Ivanchuk. Also, it seemed to him suspicious that Ivanchuk reported the pressure a year and a half after his case was combined with the Petrenko case. And finally, according to the prosecutor, it is inappropriate for the court to take into account a statement submitted to the court by another person, not the author.

President of the bench Angela Chubotaru, however, ordered that the Ivanchuk statement be appended to the case. Shendri looked at his colleague Ion Brinza. He shook his hand at the accused.

Asked to comment on Ivanchuk’s statement by NM, prosecutor Shendri replied that he would give his opinion in the debate of the parties. Petrenko also assured NM that he has already circulated Ivanchuk’s statement to human rights organizations and embassies. He plans to appeal to the prosecutor’s office with a complaint about Shendri shortly.

‘And is it so dangerous in Moldova to complain about the prosecutor?’

Sergei Ivanchuk’s lawyer, Serdzhiu Mustyatse, in a conversation with NM suggested that his client has decided to declare the prosecution put pressure on him at the final stage of the hearing, because he feared reprisals that might be taken during the trial. In answer to a question by NM whether Ivanchuk is afraid for his safety, Mustyatse smiled. “And is it so dangerous in Moldova to complain about the prosecutor?” said the lawyer. He also reported that Ivanchuk is charged under three articles of the Criminal Code: Art. 141 “Mercenary”, Art. 290 “Illegal possession of weapons” and Art. 285 “Organization of mass disorder.”

The accused Yuri Kudinov then testified in a tense atmosphere. After the admission of Ivanchuk’s statement, prosecutors and the accused awaited his version of the incident. Kudinov and Ivanchuk were detained together at Chisinau airport at the end of 2015. According to investigators, the men took part in the fighting in Donbass, and together with Petrenko Group organized a riot in front of the Prosecutor General’s office.

In February 2016 their case was added to the Petrenko Group case. In conversation with NM at that time, Shendri commented on the sudden appearance of the new defendants in the Petrenko Group case: “Patience. You’ll find out. It’s like a show, like a sitcom. The most interesting part is at the end.”

Kudinov said nothing about pressure on the part of the prosecutors. But he was surprised by the fact that he was accused in the case of the riots. According to Kudinov, he never took part in the mass protests and only met Petrenko and his associates in court. According Kudinov, the only piece of evidence that prosecutors have presented as proof of his guilt in the riot case is a statement that Kudinov made phone calls on September 6, 2015, in the area near the building of the Prosecutor General. According to Kudinov, on the day of the protest, he simply spent a half-hour near the Fidesco supermarket located opposite the Prosecutor General’s Office.

Another interesting detail is that Kudinov previously worked as a security guard at Hotel Nobil, owned by the leader of the Democratic Party Vladimir Plahotniuc Hotel, and was employed by the security agency Argus-S, also controlled by Plahotniuc.

Other defendants in the case — Pavel Grigorchuk, Alexander Roshko, Andrey Druz and Oleg Buzni – did not report anything unexpected. All of them denied that the protesters attacked the police, and argued the opposite. “I dragged on my face on the ground, and then, like a rag, thrown into a police wagon,” Buzni said of his detention.

“My feet were held in the air [by police] and I was beaten in the stomach, then dragged away face down. I woke up in the ambulance. There was no resistance,” recalled Druz, who like Kudinov, met the other defendants only in court. in the case only in the court.

Thus, the court concluded the testimony of the accused. Defendants Mikhail Amerberg and Vladimir Zhurat did not testify, because they had previously been removed from the hearings for disrupting the court.

On May 25, the court will hear defense evidence. Petrenko predicted the trial would be completed on May 29, and the court would retire to make a decision.

Petrenko and his associates are accused of organizing riots (Art. 285 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Moldova). They face imprisonment for up to eight years. The U.S. State Department declared the case of the Petrenko Group a political one.

Translated by Greg Butterfield

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