Kiev court judges refuse to take part in Communist Party banning case

Supporters of the Communist Party of Ukraine (RIA Novosti/Sergey Kozlov)
Judges at an administrative court in Kiev have refused to try a case banning the activities of the Communist Party of Ukraine, after police conducted a search and seizure operation in the office of one their colleagues.

Judge Valery Kuzmenko, who was presiding over the Justice Ministry’s suit against the Communist Party, withdrew from the case on Wednesday, the Interfax news agency reports.

All the other judges in the Kiev District Administrative Court have also filed applications to be excused from hearing the case, Kuzmenko said.

The judge explained the move by saying that the prosecutors and police searched his office and seized his computer, with working materials on the Communist Party case and others.

He said he views the law enforcement officials’ actions as an attempt to put pressure on the court.

According to the prosecutors, Monday’s search and seizure was performed as part of the criminal case, launched over the “abuse of power or position" and "forgery" by the judges, RIA-Novosti reports.

READ MORE: Ukraine communist leader: Kiev labeled 7 mn people 'terrorists,' slaughtered civilians

The Communist Party has been speaking against Ukraine’s new authorities since the coup in February 2014, which saw President Viktor Yanukovich ousted.

However, the persecution of the Communists Party began in April, shortly after Kiev launched a military operation against the country’s south-eastern regions.

Communist leader, Pyotr Simonenko, said the military campaign is Kiev’s war against its own people, stressing that if he was the head of state, he “would immediately recall all the troops.”

He openly accused the Ukrainian authorities of the “slaughter of civilians and mass murder,” saying they had labeled the 7 million people in Donetsk and Lugansk as “terrorists."

Leader of the Communist Party of Ukraine Pyotr Simonenko (RIA Novosti/Evgeny Kotenko)

In June, Ukraine’s justice minister, Pavel Petrenko, announced a lawsuit to ban the Communist Party in Ukraine.

In mid-summer, the Communist faction was dissolved by the Ukrainian parliament,with the official explanation for the move being an insufficient number of MPs in the party.

Ukraine’s security service, the SBU, said that 308 criminal cases had been launched against members of the Communist Party, with its leaders accused of supporting Crimea’s accession to the Russian Federation and backing the creation of the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, as well as financing the rebels.

In November, a group of MPs introduced a draft law to the parliament, making any dissemination of Communist ideology in Ukraine illegal and proposing punishment of up to 10 years in prison for the perpetrators.

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The Communist Party banning trial was rescheduled several times and eventually postponed by the Kiev District Administrative Court. The decision was reversed by an appeal court on December 24.

The Communists aren’t the only party facing persecution in Ukraine over their opposition stance. MPs from six parties have also come under scrutiny.

On February 2, Radical Party leader, Oleg Lyashko, demanded the dissolving of the opposition block after it became the only faction in the parliament to vote against recognizing Russia as “an aggressor state” in the Ukrainian conflict.