Pichugin’s lawyers request proper implementation of ECHR verdict
The defenders of Alexey Pichugin, former Head of YUKOS Economic Security Section, had addressed the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe with a memorandum concerning the non-compliance with the ECHR verdict which stated the violation of the right of fair trial. They further informed Strasbourg about the transfer of Mr. Pichugin to Moscow, allegedly to be questioned by FSB in order to extract the testimony against Mikhail Khodorkovsky within the framework of the impending trial in absentia. The testimony shall be the sine qua non for the possible pardon and release, they said.
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe received the memorandum by Xenia Kostromina and Pierce Gardner, Pichugin’s lawyers, concerning the ECHR verdict on the first appeal by Alexey Pichugin, which became valid on March 19 2013. Let us remember that he had been arrested in 2003 and convicted twice –first to the lengthy prison term and then to the life imprisonment – as a result of two trials on several actual and attempted murders. He had never declared himself guilty. The ECHR deemed the trial on the first case unfair and against several norms of the European Convention, requesting Russia to pay Mr. Pichugin ˆ 9.500 as compensation.
The lawyers exhort the Committee to «initiate the dialogue» with the Russian Feeration in order to «amend the results and aftermath of the unfair trial». The ECHR officially acknowledged the unjustified closing of the trial; however the the Russian Supreme Court refused to repeal the sentence and to launch a trial de novo, they wrote. The violation of the questioning protocol of the key witness had been also deemed „irrelevant“ by the Supreme Court, while the compensation had been frozen on Pichugin’s Sberbank account. Reporting to the Committee of Ministers, the Russian Ministry of Justice stated all the „individualized measures“ taken towards the interested person, particularly saying that the violations found by ECHR had no overall influence on the lawfulness of the sentence. The reasons of the freezing of Pichugin’s account are allegedly unknown to the Ministry.
The lawyers also reminded the Committee that the non-compliance of the actual situation of Alexey Pichugin with the ECHR verdict is the primordial question, for he is a victim due to the ongoing prison term. The same violations repeated during the second trial, appeal on which had been communicated by ECHR in 2015. The defenders also urge the European Court to consider the transfer of Mr. Pichugin to Moscow from Orenburg prison camp to Moscow in July, after he had been refused the pardon, in order to be questioned by FSB. The fact that Mr. Pichugin is currently in Moscow and under questioning by FSB instead of the Investigation Committee, requires further explanation, say the lawyers. The goal of the questioning is not disclosed, the defenders are bound by the non-disclosure affirmation as well; the tactics of splitting trials and transforming the accused into the accusation witness against the co-defendant is widely applied in YUKOS case, they affirm. The transfer of Mr. Pichugin to Moscow mysteriously coincided with the publicly announced investigations of the alleged involvement of Mr. Khodorkovsky in the murders upon which the second trial of Alexey Pichugin was constituted. This transfer had also coincided with the trial of Leonid Nevzlin where Pichugin acted as a witness having refused to confirm his involvement. The transfer’s goal consists in extorting possible cooperation in the investigation and further prosecution of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, state the lawyers. They also supposed that the authorities aspire to gain Pichugin’s testimony as a prerequisite of the pardon. As a matter of fact, on November 27 a year had expired since the last motion of pardon submitted by Pichugin, which means he is entitled to submit it again. In October his mother had appealed to President to pardon her son.
The defense requests the Committee to subject the implementation of the ECHR verdict to public scrutiny. In her interview to the Kommersant Xenia Kostromina said: the pardon might be a chance for the Russian authorities to properly implement the ECHR verdict, for it is impossible to declare it implemented without a trial de novo. Regarding the freezing of Pichugin’s account they said that Sberbank had refused to answer all the requests sent to it on the subject; however, in September after being requested by Strasbourg, the Bank confirmed that the account in question had been frozen by order of the Federal Court Marshals Agency. The authorities had not informed the Committee about this fact; nor had they disclosed the reasons neither to the Committee, nor to the defense, they said.
The Ministry of Justice had responded to the Kommersant that the reasons exposed in the memorandum sent to the Committee of Ministers will be examined within the framework of preparing the official response regarding the implementation of ECHR verdict; however, the public discussion of such memorandums and motions before the formulating the official stance is not practiced, it was added.
«KommersantÚ», Anna Pushkarskaya, Saint Petersburg; Nikolay Zubov, Kirill Sarkhanyants
Translated by Alexey Uelsky