- For defenders
- How can I help?
Moldova / Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic: Judicial harassment of human rights defender Mr Stepan Popovsky
On 6 September 2012, Mr Stepan Popovsky, Chairperson of the Republican Social Movement for the Protection of Property and Social Rights of Peasants, “Peasant Union”, was notified by A A Orzul, a local policeman in the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR) (also known as Transnistria), that he had been charged with an administrative offence and that the case would be heard by the Municipal Court of Slobozia on 10 September. He has been charged with illegal organisation of public meetings.
Stepan Popovsky is a prominent human rights defender dedicated to defending peasants' land and property rights. In this context, he provides legal advice and court assistance to citizens whose rights have been violated. Stepan Popovskij has also organised many public meetings in closed spaces especially designated for public meetings in different villages in the PMR, with the aim of explaining to citizens their rights and suggesting ways of resisting the illegal seizure of their land.
This is not the first time Stepan Popovsky has faced such charges for his activities. On 21 August 2012, the human rights defender was notified by another policeman, D V Gibeskul, of similar charges against him. However, the policeman did not provide information on Stepan Popovsky's procedural rights and duties while notifying him of the charges. The policeman demanded that the human rights defender present himself at the headquarters of the Municipal Court of Slobozia on 23 August, where he was informed that he was accused of organising public assemblies without notifying the authorities. However, according to Article 4 of the Law of the PMR on the Organisation and Conduct of Assemblies, assemblies in specially designated closed spaces can be conducted without providing any notification.
On the morning of 23 August, D V Gibeskul asked Stepan Popovsky to sign a new charge sheet for the alleged administrative offence, alleging that he had refused to sign the previous one in which the human rights defenders' procedural rights had been violated. Stepan Popovsky demanded that the official produce the original charge sheet, but the local policeman refused to do so.
Upon entering the judge's office, Stepan Popovsky was informed that consideration of the case against him would begin immediately in that office. The new charge sheet, brought by the policeman, was filed there and then by the judge, even though this is the duty of the policeman. Stepan Popovksy's request to have the case heard in the courtroom, and not in the office of the judge, was declined by the judge. Another request to obtain the original charge sheet from D V Gibeskul was ignored by the judge. In view of this, the human rights defender requested that the case be adjourned for five days in order to give him time to prepare his defence, but the judge only agreed to an adjournment of less than 24 hours. However, on 24 August, the judge closed the case due to the multiple procedural violations committed by D V Gibeskul.
Front Line Defenders is concerned that the filing of baseless charges by different officials against Stepan Popovsky in such a short space of time may form part of a campaign aimed at hindering the human rights defender from carrying out his peaceful and legitimate human rights activities.