On January 30 the trial against AntAC Head of Board started. He is charged with infliction of medium grave bodily injury on a journalist – part 2 of article 345-1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, which foresees a penalty for up to 5 years in prison.
The incident between Shabunin and Vsevolod Filimonenko, an aide to Radical Party MP Melnychuk, happened on June 8, 2017 near Dniprovskyi Military Commissariat in Kyiv. Filimonenko calls himself a journalist, but he is better known for his provocative videos, than for journalist publications. It can be seen in the published video, that the so-called “journalist” provoked Shabunin, and the latter punched Filimonenko’s face. In a few minutes after the punch Filimonenko refused from medical treatment of the ambulance, and safe and sound continued his provocations — ran to Shabunin and sprayed in his face.
According to Denys Ovcharov, Shabunin’s attorney, the grounds of the case are political, key evidences were actually falsified. “After studying two volumes of the evidences we revealed that medical examination results were faked. Thus, original medical certificates of X-ray and MRI examinations are missing. Moreover, medical examination text contains grave contradictions: it says that the fractures appeared on both sides of the face. In addition, the expert could not link the punch with the injuries that were registered on the 12th day after the incident had happened”.
The attorney adds that investigators refused Shabunin to conduct independent verification of the documents which raise doubts – medical examination and editorial task analysis.
The attorneys insist on another qualification of the crime, which corresponds to the real action — ‘punch without consequences’ (article 126 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine). Maximum penalty is fine. “The only damage caused by Shabunin’s punch were broken eyeglasses, which the victim added as an evidence. Therefore the case is not about violence against a journalist, but it’s about “broken Louis Vuitton eyeglasses” – Ovcharov says.
It is worth stressing that according to medical examination the fracture which is qualified by the investigators as “moderate severity injury” was registered by the doctors as late as 12 days after the incident.
Human rights organizations and media expert community stood to support Shabunin. They consider re-qualification to be groundless, investigation to use the selective approach and called on not to use the Criminal Code to persecute undesirable.
According to Oksana Romaniuk, CEO of the “Institute of Mass Information” Shabunin’s case is not related to Filimonenko’s journalistic activity. “Media community believes that the decision of the Prosecutor’s office to change the article of the Criminal Code to violence against a journalist was groundless. The reason of the conflict was personal” – Romaniuk informed. – “While only 10% of real cases of battery of journalists are brought to courts, in this case journalistic activity is used as a pretext only to toughen punishment for the activist.”
7,5 months passed since the beginning of the investigation (June 8), and 5 months since Shabunin was served the first notice of suspicion. The investigators prolonged the terms of investigation for four times. Before the end of the investigation, previously incriminated part 2 of article 122 of the Criminal Code (medium grave bodily injury) was changed to part 2 of article 345–1 of the Criminal Code (threat or violence against a journalist).
The case was investigated by 10 investigators and 5 prosecutors.
Shabunin is ready to face responsibility for his conduct, however not for the conduct which is invented by prosecutors based on the falsified evidence. “It is obvious that the case is political, with the help of falsified examinations I might be incriminated with the things I have never done. This is a revenge for the criticism of the authorities by our organization, disclosure of corruption schemes and protection of new anticorruption institutions,” – claims Shabunin.
It is a notable point that other cases of assault and battery of journalists are investigated by the law enforcement without any results. Few of the cases are submitted for trial. In particular, after the Revolution of Dignity, only 4 verdicts were passed under article 345–1, which is incriminated to Shabunin. Two cases ended in settlement agreement, while in the third case the accused was released and got a suspended sentence. In the meantime, only in 2017 the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine reported 90 cases of violence against journalists.