They fear retaliation or being arrested at the end of the hearing, even if the Court has ruled it out. Some of the witnesses are still soldiers engaged in war zones.
This report by Giacomo Bertoni was produced by Ossigeno per l’informazione in collaboration with La Provincia Pavese, National Union of Italian Journalists and the Journalists Order of Lombardy to supplement the media reports with an objective, precise and exhaustive account of the on-going trial at the Court in Pavia of the alleged perpetrator of the killing of the Italian photojournalist Andrea Rocchelli and the Russian journalist Andrey Mironov. This text was published on the oxygen.info website and was sent to the OSCE Representative for Freedom of the Media in Vienna who is following the story closely. Read the previous articles here
The witnesses fear being arrested at the end of the hearing and so they don’t want to attend. And in fact several witnesses cited by the defence of Vitaly Markiv, the only defendant in the trial to uncover the truth about the death of the photojournalist Andy Rocchelli, did not turn up at the hearing on Friday the 22nd March.
The defence lawyers and the civilian representative of Ukraine explained that the cited witnesses fear for their safety. Several of them are still soldiers engaged in military action, and they fear being arrested at the end of the trial. Annamaria Gatto who presides over the court at the Rocchelli trial has, on the basis of Italian law and international conventions, ruled out that witnesses can be arrested after their deposition. Regarding their safety, the president of the court has proposed putting security measures in place, asking for the intervention of the prefecture security committee, which could ensure an on-going police protection of witnesses during their stay in the city. Among the measures available there is also the decision to hold a hearing behind closed doors, so as to guarantee the anonymity of the soldiers still on active service. The defence lawyers, Raffele Della Valle and Donatella Rapetti, have made it known that they will send to the witnesses the minutes of the hearing which documents all the security measures that will be deployed for their protection.
In the event that despite the assurances contained in the Italian Civil Code and given by the court, the witnesses continued to refuse to appear, it would be necessary to begin an international rogatory requesting judicial assistance. But, in that case, the duration of the trial is likely to slip considerably, by at least three months. However, the verdict is anticipated in June.
Natalia Chernolutska, head of the legal department of the military unit 3066, the unit of the Ukrainian National Guard in which Vitaly Markiv served was called to testify on Friday the 22nd March. The witness was shown a document which appeared on a website called “Russian Spring”, from which it appears that the Ukrainian authorities are willing to cooperate in the trial but only by providing positive elements aimed at Markiv’s acquittal. According to Chernolutska the document is a forgery. “All the documents that come from the National Guard – Chernolutska explained – must be scrutinised, stamped and recorded in a special register. But this is not the case here. The stamp is missing, the protocol number does not coincide with the one in the register, the layout of the page is different and the name of the commander signing it is written wrongly, a letter “l” is missing “.
Natalia Chernolutska then presented to the court a statement published on the site of the Ukrainian National Guard on the 25th September 2017 in which the National Guard distanced itself from the document, calling it “totally false”.
Now the focus is on the hearing on the 12th April, in which defence lawyers will make known the responses of the cited witnesses. In case of the continuing inability to appear at the hearing, an international rogatory letter may have to be sent.
Giacomo Bertoni (wt)