INDICTMENT: April 7, 2009. Ten years of injustice
Ten years after the violent actions of April 7, 2009, following a peaceful protest triggered by the authorities, where hundreds of young people have been maltreated and tried in the police commissariats, no prosecutor, judge or policeman has ever been punished for abuses committed. Prosecutors filed 71 criminal cases, but only some of those who participated in the devastation of Parliament and Presidency buildings were punished. Just one policeman, who fled the country and wanted by Interpol, was sentenced to jail. All officials who somehow managed the actions of the police forces or were indifferent during the events of April 2009 were promoted, and judges and prosecutors managed to get away with it. The Center for Investigative Journalism analyzed the court files and screened the evolution of April 2009 events.
Thousands of young people went downtown Chisinau on 5-7 April 2009, dissatisfied with the results of the parliamentary elections of April 5, when the Party of Communists was among the parties that acceded to Parliament. The youngsters mobilized through social networks, and the protest turned later into the Twitter Revolution. On April 7, the peaceful protest degenerated into violence, hundreds of young people with their face covered and backpacks encouraged the crowd to devastate the Legislative and the Presidency Buildings. The authorities did not intervene to stop the violence. By midnight, black vans with black men entered into crowds and started maltreating people in cars. Over 700 young people, according to civil society estimates, were taken to police commissariats. Only 108 victims filed complaints with the Prosecutor's Office, and the law enforcement officers took note of other 31 cases. Out of the 71 criminal cases, subsequently started at the request of a group of lawyers and victims, 42 targeted torture, 19 – for overcoming duties, and 10 cases were triggered for other types of offense.
During the April 7 events, at least three people died in mysterious conditions, and one died a few days later as a result of the trauma. Only one case, that of Valeriu Boboc, has been investigated and proven, at the insistence of lawyers and with the help of international experts. Prosecutors say that in other 3 cases it is about suicide.
Valeriu Boboc case and the fugitive convict for four years
The case of Valeriu Boboc, the young man killed in the Great National Assembly Square on the night of 7 to 8 April 2009, is the only one admitted by the authorities. Similarly, the policeman accused of Boboc's murder, Ion Perju, is the only prisoner sentenced in the April 2009 events.
Initially, the Chisinau authorities tried to cover up the file. Forensic physicians have made a false conclusion that Boboc died of intoxication with an unknown gas. A video clearly shows how several policemen kick the young man.
Between April 17 and June 8, 2009, the Boboc family's lawyers received 12 letters and denial orders to request exhumation and repeat medical examination of the dead body of the young man killed in the Great National Assembly Square.
Finally, defendants challenge the Prosecutor's Office in court and win the case, and on June 14, 2009, the body is exhumed and is examined by a group of experts headed by British professor Derrick John Pounde, expert at the International Criminal Court. The international expertise report shows that the death of Valeriu Boboc was caused by body injuries, not by poisoning.
Police officer Ion Perju was detained a year later after Boboc's death, after the interim president of that period published videos of the webcam installed on the Government building. Ion Perju was placed under house arrest, and then under judicial control.
Throughout the trial, Ion Perju did not plead guilty, he hoped that he would be acquitted and even promised to tell the truth about how Boboc was killed, implying that actually the guilty one was his chief of criminal police, Ruslan Saachian. The court of first instance acquitted Perju, but on March 30, 2015, the Chisinau Court of Appeal sentenced him to 10 years. As magistrates pronounced the sentence, Perju ran away from the court room and has not been found so far.
Valeriu Boboc's parents were dissatisfied with the purpose of the file. "What kind of justice can be it, when a scapegoat was convicted and even that one was helped to flee? I heard that Perju is in Moscow. Saachian who got away, was promoted and is Chief of Police Inspectorate of Ciocana", said Ala Boboc, Valeriu’s mother.
In April 2017, the file on Valeriu Boboc’s death was accepted at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). "After all internal appeals were out; I filed a request with the ECHR. We believe that Valeriu Boboc’s right to life was violated by the state's violation of the obligation not to cause death and to take the necessary measures for the effective protection of the right to life. A serious and thorough investigation into the circumstances of the death was not carried out", said Valeriu Plesca, one of the family's lawyers. He told us that the victim's relatives were not admitted to resounding cases targeting officials accused of abuse of power that caused the young man’s death.
MP with fractured hand and colonels who got away
In April 2009, MP Valentina Cusnir was among the peaceful protestors, and on the night of April 8, she was beaten by two men behind the government building. As a result of ill-treatment, the MP had a fractured hand and needed more time for rehabilitation.
Valentina Cusnir acknowledged the aggressors: the police colonels Dumitru Rusu and Petru Corduneanu, who worked in the public security of the Interior Ministry.
The Prosecutor's Office started a criminal case based on the complaint filed by the former MP, but the court of first instance acquitted the two colonels on the ground that there was no evidence on committing any offense. The decision was upheld by hierarchically superior courts, and Valentina Cusnir complained at the European Court.
The former MP believes that both, those who examined the case and some of the defenders are to be held accountable. "For eight years nothing was done! The Prosecutor General's Office refused to give the video samples, falsified the prosecution and ruled with the judges. We are at a ground zero if the case is re-sent for examination at the Court of Appeal. Lawyers, in turn, being threatened by Corduneanu and his people, and the first-instance prosecutor, were influenced.
Lawyer Natalia Bayram refused to go to the Court of Appeal. I was not told anything, nobody informed me. The Court of Appeal refused to view the videos from the prosecution on the grounds that "CDs Do Not Open." Prosecutors withdrew the video from the case in the first instance, falsified it and did not want that the judges, at the prosecutor's office request, to reveal this in court", said Valentina Cusnir.
After a long trial, the former Chief of the Public Order Directorate of the Chisinau Police Commissariat, Petru Corduneanu, and his deputy Dumitru Rusu, both accused of beating the former deputy Valentina Cusnir downtown Chisinau on the night of 7 to 8 April 2009, were punished. In December 2016, they were acquitted at Chisinau Court of Appeal. Recently, the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) ruled a decision in their favor. In September 2017, Petru Corduneanu was elected MP in the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova, on the list of the Socialist Party.
Damian Hâncu's case: disappointed by Moldovan justice
Damian Hâncu is one of the ten victims in the file of former deputy commissioner of Chisinau, Iacob Gumeniţă that started in the summer of 2010.
The former policeman is accused of abuse of job duties during the April 2009 events. He was detained after photos taken from the government building revealed how Gumenita was hitting young protesters.
In April 2009, Damian Hâncu was a student at a university in France and came to Moldova on a short holiday. Hâncu recognized Gumenita as the one who beat him.
The trial was postponed several times, and in April 2016, magistrate Sergiu Lazar ruled to acquit Gumeniţă. The decision was taken in the absence of the parties, was not published on the court's official website, and the case was sent to the Court of Appeal half a year later after it was left in the Buiucani District Court offices.
The case is examined in the court of appeal with difficulty, the witnesses change their depositions, and the injured parties are disappointed by the justice in courts and do not want to make any depositions.
Damian Hâncu lives and works in France and does not want to return to the Republic of Moldova, nor to give statements to the press. "Damian does not want to give interviews, nothing! He chose another way to understand his tragedy on April 7, 2009", said one of the persons in Hincu's entourage.
Sergiu Duminica’s case
Sergiu Duminică is another victim in Gumenita case. The young man testified against the former policeman, and his case was sent to the ECHR. The young man was among the activists involved in several activities aimed at protecting the victims of violence in April 2009.
In 2013, Sergiu Duminica was handcuffed by police officers from the Ciocana district police commissariat in Chisinau and was accused of stealing a cell phone. Surprisingly, the trial in this case was very fast, the young man being sentenced to four years in prison.
Shortly after he was convicted, Sergiu Duminica withdrew his complaint from the ECHR against the state of Moldova for torture, and in February 2016, at the request of the Government of Chisinau and with the consent of Sergiu Duminica, the ECHR cancelled the case respectively. As a result, the young person is released from detention ahead of term.
Now Sergiu Duminica is out of the country and has not come to make statements against the one who maltreated him. "Unfortunately, we did not see the changes promised by the leadership," the young man told us.
Cases of activist Anatol Matasaru
Activist Anatol Mătăsaru, one month before the elections in April 2009, dressed a donkey in police clothes and a pig in prosecutor's clothes and scrolled through several cities as a protest against corruption in the law enforcement, participated in the protests of April 7, 2009. He was seen how he threw a stone at the President's building.
The activist was detained on the morning of April 8 by three policemen who were waiting for him in front of the house. He was beaten in front of the house, then loaded into a car and taken to the Tighina Isolator. 6. There, Mătăsaru said he had been maltreated by several policemen. Evidence is a few photos and videos.
A criminal case against Matasaru was started, being blamed for almost everything that happened on 7 April, including the hoisting of Romania's flag on the premises of the Presidency and the burning of the Parliament.
Subsequently, the activist was only guilty of participating in mass disorder actions for which he was fined 10,000 lei.
After the fall of the Voronin regime, prosecutors started a new criminal case against Mătasaru, this time for torture and abuse of power, admitted by police. This, after the activist identified several policemen who tortured him in the police isolator. Only three police officers stood trial. These are: Ghenadie Floreac, Alexandru Mocanu and Viorel Chirtoaca. The policemen who detained Mătăsaru were sentenced for abuse of power.
Anatol Mătăsaru sought compensation from the state, but in February 2019, after a trial that lasted almost ten years, the Chisinau Court of Appeal rejected the activist's request on the grounds that the Ministry of Justice was not among the offenders.
Police officers Octavian Sîrbu and Igor Pîntea were held accountable in the case on torture.
The Centru District Court sentenced for torture both of them, to 4 years. Chisinau Court of Appeal upheld the sentence, but the Supreme Court re-sends the case back to the court. 4 years have passed since then. Almost when she was ready to pronounce the sentence, prosecutor Irina Maxim left for maternity leave. Judicial inquiry was resumed by magistrate Alexandru Gafton, but in March 2017 he was promoted to Chisinau Court of Appeal. Subsequently, the file was given to Svetlana Tizu, and bad luck again: the magistrate was detained in the fall of 2018 for passive corruption. Several other magistrates who subsequently took over this file abstained from examination. At present, the file is managed by the magistrate Renata Popescu from the Chisinau Court of Justice, and the preliminary hearing has not yet taken place.
Anatol Matasaru said that he was also tortured by Sergiu Cociorva, who held several positions of responsibility within the Interior Ministry, as well as by Ruslan Saachian, who in April 2009 was head of the Criminal Police in Chisinau. But both were removed from the list of suspects, Sergiu Cociorva was removed from the suspects list as soon as he made depositions, and Saachian, through an ordinance that was hidden from the injured party.
Student Creţu vs officer Starinschi
Sergiu Cretu was a student at the faculty of law when he participated in peaceful protests. He was taken out of the street by police officers to the Centru Police Commissariat. As a result of the ill-treatment, Sergiu Cretu was traumatized and suffered a complicated surgery.
The young man said he was tortured by Radu Starinschi, who then served as Chief of Criminal Police in the Centru District. On May 13, 2014, the Chisinau Court of Appeal sentenced Radu Starinschi to 2 years. The former policeman, who pleaded innocent during the trial, did not spend any day in prison, being acquitted by the Supreme Court of Justice. Currently, Starinschi is employed at the National Anti-Corruption Center.
Sergiu Cretu lives in Chisinau and works as a lawyer in an enterprise. The man claims he does not trust justice, not even the European one. "Why has Starinschi been acquitted, everyone knows, now, what should I wait for? I filed a request with the ECHR and I am waiting. In fact, I do not expect anything, as so many mistakes have been made in these files. Anyway, I do not think it will be a fair decision. I know a little of the criminal proceedings, but it's late. There is a file against decision-makers, the officers on duty, that is examined at the Chisinau Court of Appeal, but it is a kind of ping-pong. And something is examined at the ECHR, and our governors are doing well together with development “partners”. I think that not just the prosecutors are guilty, but I do not want to say a lot so as not to upset more people. Mistakes have been made in these files, that you cannot solve now", said Sergiu Cretu.
Case of sisters Oxana and Ludmila Radu in Cahul
Sisters Oxana and Ludmila Radu from Cahul, were detained on the night of April 7 to 8, 2009. They were the only women detained who told reporters from Ziarul de Garda about the horrors they had been subjected to in the police commissariat. The young girls were stripped naked and humiliated before the cops. Law people have forced them to genuflections, causing them severe pain and suffering.
On July 15, 2011, Centru Court sentenced the policemen, Vitalie Dolbeş and Mariana Turcanu, to six years of imprisonment with a probation period of 5 years.
In October 2018, the ECHR investigated the case of the Republic of Moldova concerning Radu sisters. The Strasbourg Court found that the prosecutors' investigation was not prompt and started with a nine-month delay. The ECHR decision also states that the suspended sentence, applied to police officers, is incompatible with the obligation to prevent ill-treatment.
Minors maltreated by policemen
After the events of 7-8 April 2009, reporters from the Center for Investigative Journalism identified at least 63 teenagers aged 13-18 in the lists of juvenile offenders in police commissariats. Reporters discussed with most detained minors and all said they were maltreated, were physically and mentally abused by police officers.
Parents of only three children filed complaints against police officers who tortured them. The cases of Vitalie Iurcu, Dumitru Morozan and Chiril Gumeni came to court. In three cases, the police officers Vasile Olaru, Sergiu Galaniuc, Octavian Guţu and Ion Paiu were accused of ill-treatment or negligence. None of the police officers mentioned above have been held accountable for the acts committed.
Children tried at night in police commissariats
Instead, in the case of children accused of robbery, hooliganism or involvement in mass disorder, all committed in April 2009, things seem to have moved faster. Many of them were judged right in the police commissariats. Of the 33 children who were held criminally or administratively responsible for the April 2009 events, only three complained against the police for ill-treatment, and only one of them was accepted. Petru Zadîr and Ion Carcevschi's requests were dismissed by prosecutors, even though they and the Child's Advocate filed complaints with the Prosecutor's Office.
Stefan Postica and his cousin Maxim Postica, were tried at CPS Centru on April 8, late at night, accused of intending to steal a carpet. "I do not understand why I was accused of robbery because I did not do anything wrong, except I was at 1:00 in the evening in front of the Government," said Stefan. "They gave us 7 days of home arrest and said that we are not allowed to leave the country for 2 years", said Maxim Postica. After this decision, the boys were allowed to leave. "The cops told us we could stay in the commissariat by the morning, but I could not stand staying there one more night. I walked to the village of Siret, Straseni, because no transportation was running at that time. I got home at 4am", says Maxim.
Chiril Gumenii case: police intended to give 300 Euros to parents to withdraw their allegations
In April 2009, Chiril Gumenii was 14 years old. Although he did not participate in the protests, he was detained for two days by two policemen, being taken to the Buiucani Police Station, where he was ill-treated, then thrown into a yard. The minor was found by a woman who called the ambulance. Subsequently, Gumenii had two foot surgeries as his femur was fractured.
The trial of the policemen who tortured Chiril Gumenii lasted for seven years. Buiucani Court acquitted the torturers, the Chisinau Court of Appeal sentenced them to 5 years with execution in 2013, and the Supreme Court of Justice decided that the file should be re-examined. According to Chiril Gumenii's parents, the torturers have repeatedly tried to convince their son to drop the allegations. After 7 years of lawsuits, he saw that the file has no finality and he surrendered to police pressure and made a reconciliation deal. Earlier, Chiril's mother told us that one of the policemen who beat Chiril intended to give 300 Euros to withdraw his complaint against him.
Chiril Gumenii was murdered on March 12, 2017, when he was 22 years old by two drug users. Chiril's mother says that his son would have lend money to the alleged assassins, and they, in order to get rid of the debt, killed him, striking him several times with a bat in his head. The woman claims there are many ambiguities and it is not excluded that the murder of her son was ordered: "Chiril had problems with the police. Once he was sneaked drugs into his pocket, but after all he was not condemned. Chiril did not have problems with the drugs. He loved life and he struggled for justice. "
You can read about policemen, prosecutors and judges involved in the events of April 7-8, 2009, in the material: INDICTMENT: April 7, 2009. How torturing policemen, judges and prosecutors were (NOT) held accountable.
The investigation was carried out under the project "Mobilizing Civil Society to Support Judicial Integrity in the Republic of Moldova", conducted by the Center for Investigative Journalism and Freedom House, with the financial support of the US Department of State.
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