On April 7, 2009, in the Great National Assembly Square, young people were protesting the Communist Party victory in the parliamentarian elections. Thousands of young demonstrators have been clashing with police and ransacking government buildings to protest the election results.
Iacob Gumeniță, a former policeman who worked in a Chișinău police station during the April 2009 events, is tried for exceeding his authority and malfeasance in office. Eleven years after the April 2009 events, Gumeniță’s case is still pending in the Chișinău Court of Appeal.
The state of emergency, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, postponed the final hearing, scheduled for the beginning of April.
The Gumeniță Case – Three Years in the Court of Appeal
Iacob Gumeniță is a former policeman who was working in a Chișinău police station during the 2009 April events. In the Summer of 2010, Gumeniță’s case reached the court. He was accused of exceeding his authority during the April 7 2009 events, when a young man, Valeriu Boboc, was killed. Back then the press presented images where Gumeniță was beating the injured protesters in the Great National Assembly Square.
In 2016, the court acquitted Gumeniță. One year later, his case reached the Chișinău Court of Appeal. From March 2017 till April 2020, there were scheduled 32 hearings, on the case. In April 2020, the case was in its final stage, but because of the state of emergency the final hearing, from April 2, 2020, was canceled.
According to the prosecutor at the Chișinău Prosecutor’s Office, Cătălin Scutelnic, the next hearing will take place on May 29, 2020. In a discussion with ZdG, Scutelnic mentioned that there are several reasons why the Chișinău Court of Appeal took three years in examining the case.
Scutelnic mentioned that the case is complex, the defendant is charged with three different counts and each of them has to be examined particularly. Moreover, there are also over 20 witnesses who were heard, and some of them presented the situation in a different way from the first hearing.
There are also around 12 plaintiffs who live in different districts of the country, refusing to come to the hearings or others who left the country and the authorities can’t find them. Scutelnic mentions that the previous acquittal of the defendant also contributed to the case’s delay.
The prosecutor mentions that the judges that were working on the case changed leading to a re-examination of the case. Moreover, there were cases when some judges from the court formation had health issues. Scutelnic mentioned that the defendant health issues also caused more sessions to be postponed.
The prosecutor said that the accusation has invested maximum efforts and practically no court sessions were postponed because of the accusation.
The prosecutors charged Gumeniță for exceeding his authority, for violence-related offense and torture, asking for four years imprisonment and to be deprived of the right to perform public functions for five years.
However, following several changes in the Criminal Code, the prosecutors had to change the charges, accusing Gumeniță only for exceeding his authority, a crime punished with up to three years in prison and from two to five years deprivation of the right to perform public functions.
The prosecutor mentioned that they asked the court to acknowledge the illegal actions of the defendant and find him guilty of committing the crime and the rehabilitation of the injured parties’ rights because in Gumeniță’s case there are parties that asked moral non-pecuniary damages from the defendant.
Scutelnic mentioned that the accusation will maintain its position requesting for the defendant to be punished according to the charges and based on the Criminal Code enforced when the crime was committed. Scutelnic added that maintaining the acquittal decision will make it impossible for the victims to claim their rights in this case.
The state accusation is represented by two prosecutors, one from the Chișinău Prosecutor’s Office and another from the Prosecutor’s Office for Combating Organised Crime and Special Causes.
ZdG tried to ask about the case Iacob Gumeniță’s lawyer, Ion Vazdoaga, but he did not reply to our calls.
Seven years after the April 7 2009 events, Sergiu Lazăr, a judge from Buiucani District Court, Chișinău, acquitted the policeman after a six-year trial. The court pronounced the sentence in silence, without the presence of the press. Half a year after Gumeniță’s acquittal, the prosecutors confirmed the information for ZdG. However, until now, Gumeniță’s sentence wasn’t made public on the courts’ webpage.
The Then Minister of Interior Is Acquitted and the Then Head of Public Order Unit Is Now Deputy Director at the State Protection and Guard Service
In July 2015, the Supreme Court of Justice acquitted the then Minister of Internal Affairs, Gheorghe Papuc, and the then head of the General Police Inspectorate, Vladimir Botnari who were accused of infringing the law during the April 2009 events. The Court established that the two officials acted correctly by avoiding intervention in the events. The Court also concluded that avoiding stopping the devastation of the Parliament and Presidency buildings was a wise decision because in this way the lives of many children who participated in the protests were saved.
„The material damages can be retrieved, while human victims, especially young people, would have constituted an irreparable loss from the perspective of the moral and social values,” the Supreme Court of Justice mentions in its decision.
The Court concluded that responsible for the abuses committed in police stations are the policemen working there during the April 2009 events. The persons in charge of the Minister of Internal Affairs and other institutions managing the public order in the country are innocent.
These statements are in the Supreme Court of Justice decision that declared Papuc and Botnari not guilty in the April 7 2009 case.
Petru Corduneanu, the then head of the Public Order Unit from the Ministry of Interior and Dumitru Rusu, his former deputy, were also declared not guilty in the April 7 2009 case. A former member of the Parliament, Valentina Cușnir, accused the two officials of torturing her on the night of April 7 to 8, 2009. In the meantime, Petru Corduneanu was appointed deputy director of the State Protection and Security Service.
In 2017, eight years since the events, ZdG wrote that dozens of important officials maintained key administrative positions and continued to govern Moldova. Some heads of the police stations in which young people were tortured in April 2009 returned to lead those subdivisions, and some of the judges and prosecutors involved even managed to get promoted. Some of the politicians who were then in power later went on to work side by side with those who were protesting in opposition, shouting “Down with the Communists!” Some communists turned into socialists, and others became democrats, continuing to govern Moldova. Only one April 2009 official, police officer Ion Perju, was charged and sentenced to jail time, but he was never put behind bars because he managed to flee the country before the sentence was pronounced.
Even if eleven years have already passed, the 7 April 2009 events have not been fully elucidated. Throughout this time, ZdG has published countless articles, interviews, and stories about those who participated in the protest and then became victims of the communist regime which controlled policemen, prosecutors, and judges, all of whom became accomplices to the atrocities that took place.