Rocchelli trial. The judgment of the appeal court: Markiv acquitted, no one is guilty

In first instance Markiv had been sentenced to 24 years of imprisonment – The compensation to the civil parties from him and from the Ukrainian State have also been cancelled

OSSIGENO – November 3rd  2020 – The Milan Court of Assizes has fully acquitted, on appeal, Vitaly Markiv, 31, Italian-Ukrainian, former soldier in  the Ukrainian National Guard, accused of the murder of Andy Rocchelli, the 30-year-old photojournalist from Pavia killed by mortar fire on May 24th  2014, in Donbass (the area of ​​Ukraine occupied by pro-Russian separatists) while he was reporting.

The judgement  was pronounced late in the evening after six hours in the Council Chamber. The accused was acquitted “for not having committed the crime” and was released from prison. The Court of Assizes of Appeal also revoked the compensation granted in the first instance also against the Ukrainian state, which was held civilly liable. The Attorney General has announced an appeal to the Supreme Court.

The sentence overturned the conclusions reached by the first instance judges in Pavia in July 2019, who had found Vitaly Markiv guilty of complicity in murder and sentenced him to 24 years of imprisonment, of which he served three while awaiting trial. On hearing the news, he expressed satisfaction and announced that he will now return to Ukraine.

Andrea Rocchelli’s mother denounced a climate of intimidation around the trial. The details are in these Ansa reports.

Rocchelli: Markiv acquitted and released from prison on appeal. The Court overturns the verdict; he did not kill reporters and will return to Ukraine

ANSA – Milan, 3rd November 2020 – by Igor Greganti – Dramatic turn of events in the appeal in Milan in the trial on the killing of Andy Rocchelli, the 30-year-old photojournalist from Pavia who was killed by mortar fire on May 24, 2014, while he was carrying out a reportage in Donbass, an area of ​​Ukraine occupied by pro-Russian separatists. The trial has over the years also created diplomatic tensions.

Vitaly Markiv, an Italian-Ukrainian and former soldier of the Kiev National Guard, was acquitted for “not having committed the crime” and released after more than 3 years of detention and after a first degree sentence of 24 years.

VITALY MARKIV’S MOTHER AND THE MINISTER“I am happy for my son, I thank the lawyers and the Ukrainian State, I have always believed in the truth”, said Markiv’s mother alongside representatives of Kiev. “I will go and pick him up when he comes out and then I will return to Ukraine with him”. explained Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov who was also present today in the courtroom and who wanted to express “my compliments to the Italian justice system. The Court of Appeal – he continued – has accepted our arguments. We too want to know all the details about Rocchelli’s death, I’m sure they will be made public and we will know the truth, but the truth is also that Italy has nothing to do with it. Nothing and  Markiv has nothing to do with it”.

THE MOTHER OF ROCCHELLI – For Elisa Signori, mother of the photojournalist, however, the “correct version of the facts is that of the Court of Pavia”, which in July 2019 condemned the 31-year-old Italian-Ukrainian, “and that of the Milan Attorney General” who had asked for confirmation of the 24 year sentence. “We will read the reasons (in 90 days’ time, ed.) and see what to do”, she added.

THE DEFENDANT – Markiv proclaimed his innocence to the last, even with spontaneous statements before the six-hour meeting in Council Chamber and the verdict. The young man, when he was 16 in 2005, had moved to Marche, where he was a personal trainer and DJ. Then in 2012 he tried to enlist in the Italian army before returning to his homeland to fight. He was tried in Italy because he also has Italian citizenship. For the prosecution  he was said to be the ‘look-out’ who indicated the photojournalist and his group as suspects near a factory transformed into a weapons depot by the Russian-backed separatists, just before a hail of fire. He would have contributed, therefore, “materially” to helping those who fired, those who launched that attack in which the interpreter Andrei Mironov also died but this line of argument was not accepted by the appellate judges.

THE PUBLIC ACCUSATION“In this trial there is no politics, no position is taken for the Ukrainian state or for the separatists, here only the responsibility for a crime is examined”, the substitute prosecuting judge Nunzia Ciaravolo had highlighted, before the Court, chaired by Giovanna Ichino, entered the Council Chamber. She added that “really inappropriate and also, in some respects, defamatory references to the judicial authorities”, had arrived from the defence counsel of Markiv (Raffaele Della Valle was among his lawyers) which nourish “even external evaluations that are completely inappropriate aiming to discredit the Italian judiciary”. The PG then clarified that “with a letter a Ukrainian minister on his own initiative addressed his grievances to the Court”.

THE DEFENCE– The defence counsel, on the other hand, has always insisted that there is no evidence of Markiv’s responsibility in the killing. “They have been hit repeatedly – said the general prosecutor – with deadly weapons and this contravenes international conventions which consider it inadmissible that in any conflict these weapons are used against unarmed civilians”.

CIVIL PARTIES – In addition to the Rocchelli family, the Fnsi (National Federation of the Italian Press), Alg (Lombard Association of Journalists) and the Cesura photographic collective were civil parties in the process. The compensation that in first instance was also to be borne by the Ukrainian state as civilly liable was also revoked by the Court. It can be taken for granted that it will also reach the Supreme Court, after the appeal of the Attorney General. 

ANDY ROCCHELLI’S MOTHER – ANSA – Milan 3rd November 2020 – “There was a heavy climate of intimidation also towards us around this trial”, said Elisa Signori, the mother of Andy Rocchelli before the start of the final hearing of the Milanese appeal trial. 

OSSIGENO – Why this judgment concerns us all – Read the statement made by Alberto Spampinato, President of Ossigeno, while waiting the conclusion of the Milan appeal trial see here

VITALY MARKIV’ COMMENT – ANSA– Milan 3 November 2010 – “The Italian people gave me a home, education, everything, I have nothing against this countr – Vitaly Markiv, I finally got justice, but they took three years from mey. Anyone who knows me knows that I have always tried to be grateful for the opportunity that Italy has given me. But three years have been taken away from me (with his detention pending trial, ed.) and no compensation will bring them back. This must be a lesson for all innocent people: cases must be examined thoroughly, because a comma can change the destiny of a man, of a family, of a people. I am content; we have seen that there is justice in Italy “.

This was the comment on the judgement by Vitaly Markiv  leaving the prison of Opera, after the acquittal decided by the Court of Assizes of Appeal, of Milan, which annulled  the 24-year sentence in first instance for the murder of Andy Rocchelli. Markiv showed up smiling in front of the cameras with a Ukrainian flag on his shoulders. “Very terrible things have been said during this trial. But I don’t want to list the mud that was slung not at me personally. Things – he said – that have nothing to do with reality: I am the enemy of journalists, ruthless murderer, killer! They said everything and more about me. But basically the facts have not been talked about. I said what I felt inside, it has been shown that in Italy there is the rule of law, Italy is a democratic country. I grew up here. These values ​​Italy has passed on to me. Before the Euromaidan revolution began, I had the opportunity to live the democratic dream, the European dream”.

He explained why he returned to Ukraine to fight: “not because I wanted to look for excitement. I knew what I was going to encounter, that I could lose my life, that it wasn’t a game. A great person said: ‘Don’t ask what your country has done for you, but rather ask yourself what you have done for your country’. I made my decision: I am Ukrainian, my homeland is in difficulty and I have to go and help it”.

ASP /wt

with the collaboration of Luciana Borsatti

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