The prosecution has requested 17 years in prison for complicity in murder, the defence demands a complete acquittal.
This report by Giacomo Bertoni was produced by Ossigeno per l’informazione in collaboration with La Provincia Pavese, National Union of Italian Reporters and the Journalists Order of Lombardy to supplement the media reports with an objective, timely and exhaustive account of the progress of the trial underway in the Court of Pavia where the alleged perpetrator of the killing of the Italian photojournalist Andrea Rocchelli and the Russian journalist Andrey Mironov is charged.
This text has been published on the ossigeno.info website and has been sent to the OSCE Representative for Freedom of the Media in Vienna, who is following the story closely.
The prosecution requested the sentencing of the only defendant, the Italian-Ukrainian militiaman Vitaly Markiv to seventeen years of imprisonment for complicity in murder, considering him responsible for the death of the Italian photojournalist Andrea Rocchelli, shot dead in Ukraine on the 24th May 2014. The defence disputed the charges and demanded a full acquittal. The Court of Assizes of Pavia will decide with the sentence expected on Friday 12th July 2019 at the conclusion of the trial that began in September 2018.
The Court must determine whether the Italian photojournalist was the victim of a deliberate attack against him and other journalists regarded as awkward witnesses, or of a pure accident, of a terrible situation that turned a group of reporters into targets being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The trial for the murder of photojournalist Andy Rocchelli reaches its climax after a tense exchange of words involving witnesses, public prosecutors, defence counsel and civil parties. The sentence will be announced in the Sala dell’Annunciata which is expected to be full of both the public and journalists.
The trial centred on events that took place on May 24th 2014. On that day, at 5 pm, in the Donbass region, an armed attack began in which the photojournalist Rocchelli and human rights activist Andrei Mironov were killed.
The prosecution’s thesis set out by the prosecuting magistrate Andrea Zanoncelli on the one hand and the acquittal thesis expressed in the speeches of the defence attorneys, Raffaele Della Valle and Donatella Rapetti are very far apart. Likewise the positions of the friends of Andy Rocchelli and those of the friends of Vitaly Markiv are opposed.
According to the indictment expressed on May 24th 2019 by the prosecuting magistrate Zanoncelli, the attack on journalists Andy Rocchelli, Andrei Mironov and William Roguelon was intentional. “The journalists who filmed videos and documented the violence perpetrated against the civilian population was the last straw – the magistrate said – for this reason, when Markiv spotted the car, believing that journalists were awkward witnesses, he gave the order to fire “.
The prosecuting magistrate has also forwarded to the Court of Assizes of Pavia an authorization to proceed for complicity in murder against an officer of the Ukrainian National Guard, the direct superior of Markiv.
The lawyer Alessandra Ballerini, defence counsel on behalf of the relatives of Andrea Rocchelli, asked for 1.8 million euros of compensation for the killing of the photojournalist of Pavia: 500 thousand for Andrea’s mother, 500 thousand for his father and a further 800 thousand for the partner of the photo-reporter. Ballerini has discussed with them at length to convince Andy Rocchelli’s parents to ask for this sum. On Friday June 14th 2019 she made it very clear during her speech in the courtroom; “Andy’s family did not want any compensation, we had vigorous discussions on the matter. Now we ask that the sentence restores peace to the family. Because without truth there can be no peace. Family members have never called for punishment over these years, they have never sought revenge. They have always sought and asked for the truth. Their battle is conducted not only for Andy, but for all journalists operating in war zones”.
A completely different scenario was described on Friday 21st June, in the long speech by lawyer Della Valle. Over almost five hours, Della Valle challenged the indictment of the prosecutor point by point. According to the lawyer, the attitude of the prosecutor was “hypercritical”. “He has chosen to see and underline only the elements that are useful for the conviction, while – said the lawyer – relevant data have been omitted because they are contrary to the accusation. He shut himself up in the bulwark of certainties, working in only one direction. Believing in Markiv’s innocence does not mean being against Andrea Rocchelli’s family, but it means rejecting the idea of finding a culprit at all costs. We must find “the culprit”, not a culprit. “
The lawyer reconstructed the attack of May 24th 2014: “The journalists walked about and took photographs without anything happening. The shooting began when a fifth man appeared, dressed in civilian clothes, who then followed them when they took refuge in the ditch. The taxi driver who took them to the site of the shooting which the prosecution decided not to cite in the trial, says that during the shooting Mironov explained that they were under crossfire and that they would have to wait for the shooting to end. At that time the only Ukrainians present were located 1700 meters away on the hill. How could they realize from that distance that they were journalists? It was impossible to see them and recognize them, useless to shoot blindly with machine guns at that distance”. Hundreds of people are expected in Pavia on Friday 12th and for this reason the President of the Court Annamaria Gatto has chosen the Sala dell’Annunciata, a large hall owned by the Province of Pavia, as the venue for announcing the sentence. The hall will be manned by the police from early morning and to enter one will need to pass double checks with a metal detector.