European Court of Human Rights communicates application on second Pichugin trial

posted 5 Apr 2015, 08:58 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 5 Apr 2015, 09:00 ]
2 April 2015

By Vera Vasilieva

According to information received by from a member of Aleksei Pichugin’s defence team on 2 April 2015, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has communicated an application lodged in connection with the second criminal prosecution and trial of the former-Yukos employee, which ended with him being sentenced to life imprisonment.

This means that ECtHR has found Pichugin’s appeal admissible, and has requested further information from both the government of the Russian Federation and the applicant and his lawyers in order to determine whether the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms may have been violated. The parties must submit their responses to the ECtHR within the specified deadline.

During the second set of criminal proceedings against him, Aleksei Pichugin was found guilty of organising the 1998 murders of Vladimir Petukhov (mayor of Nefteyugansk) and Valentina Korneeva (owner of the Moscow-based company “Feniks”) and attempts on the life of Yevgeny Rybin (head of the Austrian company East Petroleum) in 1998 and 1999. The Russian court upheld the state prosecution’s claims that Pichugin was acting on the instructions of Leonid Nevzlin, former Vice-President of Yukos.

The application in question was lodged with the ECtHR shortly after Pichugin was sentenced to life imprisonment on 6 August 2007. Pichugin’s lawyer, Kseniya Kostromina, has previously explained to that the issue at stake is the possible violation of Article 6 of the European Convention (“the right to a fair trial”) during the relevant court proceedings.

The author of this article (an correspondent) has been present at all of the hearings in the trial and believes that Petr Shtunder, judge of the Moscow City Court, played down evidence which did not support the indictment. In particular, his verdict ignored the statements of the convict Mikhail Ovsyannikov indicating that the Prosecutor-General’s investigators employed psychological and physical force to coerce him into committing perjury against the ex-Yukos employee.

The presiding judge disregarded the testimony given by the witness Aleksei Kondaurov, former head analyst at Yukos and Menatep, stating that Pichugin reported to Shestopalov (head of the Security Department) and could not have received instructions from Leonid Nevzlin.

Judge Shtunder also rejected a request for graphological analysis of a note with the address of the victim Yevgeny Rybin which the prosecution alleges was handwritten by Pichugin, even though such an analysis could potentially clarify the facts of the case.

The main “witnesses” for the prosecution – the convicts Gennady Tsigelnik and Yevgeny Reshetnikov – testified to the involvement of Pichugin and Nevzlin in the crimes on the basis of conversations they reported having with Gorin and Goritovsky, i.e. third parties whose statements cannot be verified (Goritovsky having been murdered and Gorin having disappeared together with his wife). Gennady Tsigelnik retracted his confession on 21 April 2008 during the proceedings in the Leonid Nevzlin case, stating that he had calumnied Pichugin and Nevzlin at the request of the Prosecutor-General’s investigators.

The time and place of the crimes were not specified during the course of the criminal proceedings; the verdict merely states that Aleksei Pichugin committed the alleged crimes ‘in an unascertained location’ and ‘at an unascertained time,’ together with ‘unascertained persons from the Yukos management.’

Furthermore, no account was taken of the fact that Aleksei Pichugin had no motive for committing the crimes. The state prosecution’s allegation that Yukos stood to benefit as a result is not backed up by the evidence in the case.

Aleksei Pichugin’s lawyers have stressed that an ECtHR ruling which finds that Article 6 of the European Convention has been violated will represent a new circumstance allowing the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation to overturn the wrongful sentence.

Translated by Joanne Reynolds