Ukraine: Senior Judge ‘Vanishes’ After Parliament Approves Arrest
Ukrainian news channel “24” reported that Anton Chernushenko, the chairman of the Kyiv Court of Appeal, skipped work the day after the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament) authorized his arrest on corruption charges. The channel reported his wife said her husband is “on vacation.”
On Tuesday, 273 of the 423 Verkhovna Rada deputies voted to authorize his arrest at the request of Prosecutor General Victor Shokin. Between autumn 2014 and last month, Chernushenko is accused by the Prosecutor General of “illegal interference with operation of an automated court management system” and “unjust court decisions.”
Chernushenko’s arrest was supported by deputies from an array of political parties. However, the Opposition Bloc, a group critical of the Maidan revolution, objected, with representative Dmitry Shpenov from Dnipropetrovsk calling the vote “pressure on the court" and an action that "undermine confidence in the judiciary."
Chernushenko's whereabouts have been unclear since Wednesday. Political analysts told RIA Novosti Ukraine that security services may be preparing a special operation to arrest Chernushenko. One law enforcement source told journalists “we know where he is.”
The parliamentary vote followed a fast-moving investigation. On June 20, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) searched the Kiev Court of Appeal, barring judges from the building. On the 22nd of June, Chenushenko denied the allegations against him and told reporters that he had carried 25,000 Ukrainian Hyrvnia (US$ 1,182) seized from him because he was planning to go shopping. He also said he had carried US$ 6,500 because he was going to visit a dentist, and had taking the money to pay for implants.
On June 25, Anton Gerashchenko, a Verkhovna Rada deputy, published a series of alleged SMS messages relating to Chernushenko on Facebook, alleging he had criminally abused his powers. Gerashchenko’s allegations attracted more than 1,000 likes and were shared hundreds of times, attracting widespread media coverage.
The case has fuelled a wider debate in Ukraine about whether judges and other officials should continue to be granted immunity from arrest and prosecution without the consent of Parliament. Many supporters of the Maidan revolution have argued such an approach facilitates abuse of power. Regardless, the Kiev Court of Appeal Friday (July 3) reportedly elected Yaroslav Golovacheva as its new chairman, replacing Chernushenko.