1. IntroductionAna Ursachi is a Moldovan attorney and human rights activist who became famous due to her participation in the defence of victims of politically motivated prosecutions in the Republic of Moldova. Ursachi is also known for her opposition activities – in particular, as the founder of the public movement #NuMaTem (in Romanian – ‘I am not afraid’). Ana Ursachi took part in anti-government protests organised by the parties: Dignity and Truth Platform and The Red Bloc. Moldovan oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, who is one of the leaders of the Democratic Party of Moldova using the influence he has over the state’s law enforcement agencies and the huge media resources at his disposal (the TV channels: Prime, Publika, Canal 2, Canal 3, Moldova 1), is trying to settle the score with Ana Ursachi. This is due to the fact that, for the past 7 years, Ursachi has defended the interests of many political and business opponents of Plahotniuc such as: Grigore Petrenco, Razvan Paveliu, Alexandru Machedon, Ion Matasevich, Marina Anton, Domnica Manole, Radu Cibotari, Sergiu Cibotari, Ion Butmalai, Anatolie, Gheorghe and Sergiu Stepuleac, Renato Usatii, Vyacheslav Platon (Kobalyev) and Viorel Topa. Many of these people have accused Plahotniuc of corruption and of seizing their businesses and, as a result, they have all become defendants in questionable criminal proceedings. Since October 2016, an information campaign has been carried out against Ana Ursachi in a bid to discredit her. Consequently, not only has the counsel suffered personally, but her relatives and associates have also suffered. On 5 December 2016, it transpired that criminal proceedings had been instituted against Eduard Rudenco, Ana Ursachi’s counsel, with respect to charges of abuse of professional capacity (Art. 326 of the CC). A case was opened against Rudenco in April 2016, but he remained oblivious to this fact until as late as December 2016, after he had already been declared a suspect. The criminal proceedings against Ana Ursachi are being carried out in violation of Moldovan legislation and bear indications of being political motivation. This case may well have a detrimental effect on Moldova’s international reputation, a country which has positioned itself as both a democratic and law-abiding state.
2. Accusations of involvement in a murder committed 19 years agoIn early September 2016, the Moldovan pro-government blogger Eugen Lukyanyuk posted in his online journal, a ruling by the Appellate Chamber of Chisinau on the case of the murder of a teacher, Lyubov Manoli, committed in 1997. Ana Ursachi’s ex-husband, Ruslan Moiseev, was determined to be one of the perpetrators and was sentenced to 18 years in prison. As stated by Lukyanyuk, in the judgment, the Appellate Chamber stated that Ana Ursachi ‘may be linked to the Manoli case’.
Moldovan attorneyAna Ursachi
human rights activist
She became famous due to her participation in the defence of victims of politically motivated prosecutions in the Republic of Moldova. Ursachi is known for her opposition activities – in particular, as the founder of the public movement #NuMaTem. Ana Ursachi took part in anti-government protests.
- Under the old Criminal Procedure Code (CCP), effective in the Republic of Moldova until 2003, the statute of limitations for ‘crimes of utmost gravity’ was 15 years. Accordingly, with respect to case of the murder of Lyubov Manoli, that statute of limitations expired in 2012 and hence, any subsequent resumption of the criminal case is unlawful.
- According to the new Code of Criminal Procedure, resumption of criminal proceedings is permissible in the event of significant irregularities, however, proceedings should be resumed no later than within 1 year from the date of entry into force of the decision to discontinue the criminal proceedings (Art. 287 of the CCP). Therefore, even under the new Code of Criminal Procedure, the prosecutor’s office had no grounds to reopen the case against Ursachi.
- In its ruling of 14 May 2015, Moldova’s Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional Article 287 of the CCP (the possibility to resume criminal proceedings), as it violated the principle of non bis in idem (no person may be tried or punished twice for the same act). “The Constitutional Court notes that according to the principle of non bis in idem, the competent public authorities are not only prevented from conducting a re-trial, but also from prosecuting an individual multiple times for the same criminal act”, – the court decision reads.
3. Vladimir Plahotniuc’s influence on Moldovan law enforcement agenciesIn late August 2016, the blog platform WordPress published documents indicating that a number of Moldovan judges and senior prosecutor’s office and police personnel had received money from companies affiliated to Vladimir Plahotniuc. The sums, amounting to tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, were paid as fees for “legal services” – the excitation of criminal cases and the adoption of relevant judicial decisions in their regard. According to the released documents, the list of persons who received remuneration, includes senior workers of the prosecutor’s office such as: former General Prosecutor; Valery Gurbul, the current head of the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office; Viorel Morar and the head of the Criminal Investigation Department at the General Prosecutor’s Office of Moldova; Nikolai Kitoroaga. Also included in the list were the names of numerous judges of the Supreme Court Chamber and the Appellate Chamber. According to the payment data corresponding to these documents, funds were to be collected from various companies associated with Vladimir Plahotniuc in order to pay the ‘bonuses’. It is worth noting that Prosecutor Nicolae Kitoroaga is head of the department which is handling the investigation into the criminal case against Ana Ursachi. Viorel Morar, as head of the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office, is also responsible for supervising the criminal prosecution of Vyacheslav Platon (Kobalyev). In addition, Ana Ursachi considers it noteworthy that Plakhotnyuk has previously arranged for several judges to undergo treatment for cancer, thus securing their loyalty. According to Ursachi, the following judges were provided such treatment: Chief Justice Mihai Poalelungi, Supreme Court Justice Oleg Sternioala and Judge of the Buiucani Court in Chisinau, responsible for the issuance of arrest warrants, Ghenadie Pavliuc.
4. The defence of Vladimir Plahotniuc’s opponentsAs an attorney, Ana Ursachi participated in many criminal cases bearing indications of political motivation and/or fabrication. A common theme which linked all of these cases was that each and every victim of persecution had somehow managed to become embroiled in a conflict with the oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc.
- The case of Sergiu Cibotari
The criminal proceedings against Ana Ursachi are being carried out in violation of Moldovan legislation and bear indications of being political motivation. This case may well have a detrimental effect on Moldova’s international reputation, a country which has positioned itself as both a democratic and law-abiding state.
- The case of Alexandru Machedon
- The case of Marina Anton
- The case of Domnica Manole
- The case of Radu Cibotari and Ion Matasevich
- The case of Ion Butmalai
- The case of Anatolie, Gheorghe and Sergiu Stepuleac
- The case of Renato Usatii
- The case of Razvan Paveliu, and Viorel Topa
- The case of Grigore Petrenco
- The case of Vyacheslav Platon (Kobalyev)
5. The reaction of the international communityThe international community has expressed concern over the criminal prosecution of Ana Ursachi, as well as the deterioration of the human rights situation in Moldova in general. On 11 October 2016, 21 members of the PACE signed a declaration in which they condemned the criminal prosecution for political reasons of a number of persons in Moldova (Victor Topa, Viorel Topa, Vyacheslav Platon (Kobalyev), whose interests are being defended by Ana Ursachi. The MPs called on Moldova to honour its commitments in the field of the protection of human rights and to cease the practice of intimidating politicians, civil society activists and key witnesses in high-profile criminal cases. On 7 November 2016, German Ambassador to the Republic of Moldova, Ulrike Knotts expressed her concern over the persecution of Ana Ursachi and called for adherence to the principle of the presumption of innocence. On 16 November 2016, Member of the Bundestag, Frank Schwabe addressed the Ambassador of the Republic of Moldova, as well as the Minister of Justice and General Prosecutor of the Republic of Moldova with written inquiries: “Is it possible to protect Ana Ursachi from the hate campaign which has been launched against her in Moldova?” and “How is Vyacheslav Platon’s (Kobalyev’s) right to a defence being ensured?”. On 16 November 2016, in her statement to the Ambassador of the Republic of Moldova in Poland, Member of the Polish Sejm, Kornelia Wróblewska, expressed her concern over the dubious criminal prosecution and slanderous media campaign being waged against Ana Ursachi. At the end of November 2016, a number of activists from Moldova addressed representatives of the EU, the PACE and the US with an appeal to defend Ana Ursachi. “Since September 2016, Ana Ursachi, in defence of Platon (Kobalyev), published a significant piece of evidence concerning Vlad Plahotniuc’s involvement in illegal and criminal financial transactions. This fact prompted a huge reverberation in the Moldovan media, as well as during Ana Ursachi’s meetings with European politicians and diplomats, including the European Parliament and the PACE … The case of Ana Ursachi is a continuation of a series of political persecutions by the oligarch Plahotniuc”, – they stated in the letter signed by independent journalist Natalia Morar, a former Ambassador of Moldova at the Council of Europe and the UN Alexey Tulbure, editor-in-chief of the Omg.md online portal Alexandr Petkov, member of the European Business Association Alexandru Machedon and others.
6. ConclusionsThe criminal prosecution of the Moldovan attorney Ana Ursachi is illegal and bears signs of a political order. It is noteworthy that the resumption of the criminal case was initiated at the very moment when Ana Ursachi became involved as a defence counsel in the case against Vyacheslav Platon (Kobalyev) who expressed his intention to give evidence against the influential oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc.
Another persecuted Plahotniuc's opponents:
- Sergiu Cibotari
- Alexandru Machedon
- Marina Anton
- Domnica Manole
- Ion Matasevich
- Radu Cibotari
- Ion Butmalai
- the Stepuleac brothers and others
- President of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova Andrian Candu – MD-2073, Chișinău, Bd. Ștefan cel Mare și Sfânt 105, e-mail: [email protected], [email protected], fax: 022 268 491, phone: 022 820 390;
- General Prosecutor of the Republic of Moldova Eduard Harunjen – MD-2005, Chișinău, Mitropolit Gavriil Bănulescu-Bodoni str, 26, phone: +373 022 225 075
- Minister of Justice of the Republic of Moldova Vladimir Cebotari – MD-2012, Chișinău, 31 August 1989 str, 82, e-mail: [email protected], phone: (+373 22) 23 47 95;
- Ombudsman of the Republic of Moldova Mikhail Cotorobai – MD-2012, Chișinău, 16 SfatulTariistr, e-mail: [email protected], phone: (+373 22) 23 48 00;
- PACE President Pedro Agramunt — e-mail: [email protected], tel: +33 88 41 23 41;
- OSCE PA Presidente Christine Muttonen — e-mail: [email protected], tel:+43 (1) 401 10 3660, +43 (1) 401 10 3444;
- The President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker– 1049 Brussels, Belgium Rue de la Loi / Wetstraat 200, e-mail: [email protected];
- The Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland – e-mail: [email protected], tel: + 33 (0)3 88 41 20 00;
- United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein – Palais des Nations CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland, tel: +41 22 917 9220;
- United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi – Case Postale 2500 CH-1211 Genève 2 Dépôt, Switzerland, тел: +41 22 739 8111.
- OSCE PA Chair of the Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions Ignacio Sanchez Amor – e-mail: [email protected], tel: +34 91 390 6919;
- European Parliament President Martin Schulz – 1047 Brussels, Belgium, Bât. Paul-Henri Spaak 09B011, Rue Wiertz / Wiertzstraat 60, e-mail: [email protected], tel: +32(0)2 28 45503 (Brussels), +33(0)3 88 1 75503 (Strasbourg);
- EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini– 1049 Brussels, Rue de la Loi / Wetstraat 200, e-mail: [email protected], tel: +32 2 584 11 11; +32 (0) 2 295 71 69;
- The Head of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs Elmar Brok – 1047 Brussels, Belgium, Bât. Altiero Spinelli 05E240, Rue Wiertz / Wiertzstraat 60, e-mail: [email protected], tel: +32(0)2 28 45323 (Brussels), +33(0)3 88 1 75323 (Strasbourg);
- The Head of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights Elena Valenciano – 1047 Brussels, Belgium, Bât. Altiero Spinelli 11G354, Rue Wiertz / Wiertzstraat 60, e-mail: [email protected], tel: +32(0)2 28 45846 (Brussels), +33(0)3 88 1 75846 (Strasbourg);
- The President of the European Council Donald Tusk-– 1048 Brussels, Rue de la Loi / Wetstraat 175, e-mail: [email protected], tel: +32 2 28 15650;