A Chișinău Court has acquitted a prosecutor who stood trial in August 2017 for knowingly condemning an innocent person. A policeman previously convicted for the falsification of procedural documents in the same case was also acquitted. The acquittal was finally delivered on October 7, 2019, after the judge responsible for the case postponed the sentencing hearing on multiple occasions last year, in order to conduct a judicial inquiry.
Former Prosecutor General Eduard Harunjen announced the opening of a criminal case against prosecutor Lilian Cociu after he condemned an innocent person in 2007. But despite Harunjen previously declaring that the evidence gathered was sufficient for Cociu’s indictment, both the prosecutor and the policeman involved in the case were acquitted on October 7, 2019.
ZdG provides details on the case and how it was handled under the former and the current government.
An innocent man who served five years in prison
In 2007, prosecutor Lilian Cociu oversaw a case involving a murder and an attempted murder near the Chișinău suburb of Durlești.
Cociu accused Andrei Crăciun of murder and attempted murder in the case and subsequently remitted the criminal case regarding him to the court.
Crăciun was convicted for committing a criminal offense and was sentenced to 21 years in prison.
In 2013, having served more than five years in detention, Crăciun was acquitted and released, because it was established that he had not committed the crime.
Andrei Crăciun then took his case to a civil court, where he received compensation for the moral damage of illegal detention amounting to around 77,000 euros (1.5 million lei), paid out of the state budget.
In March 2017, after a meeting of the Superior Council of Prosecutors, then Prosecutor General Eduard Harunjen, announced a criminal case against prosecutor Lilian Cociu.
“We started the criminal case in the summer of 2016, and the evidence we have accumulated so far allows us to place the person under indictment. The prosecutor in question investigated the case of the murder in Durlești and through his actions illegally accused an innocent person and sent him to prison for more than five and a half years,” Harunjen said.
In August 2017, the Chișinău Court examined the criminal case and Cociu was tried for knowingly putting an innocent person on trial for criminal liability. The prosecutor was tried along with the policeman Victor Ababii, on trial for falsifying some procedural documents.
The judge responsible for the case, Grigore Manoli, repeatedly postponed the sentencing hearing over the course of the last year, resuming the judicial inquiry each time.
A sentence was finally pronounced on October 7, 2019. And even though prosecutor Lilian Cociu – responsible for overseeing the 2007 case – did not take all actions provided by law to ensure a complete and objective investigation of the circumstances of the case, Cociu as well as the policeman involved were acquitted.
“I don’t agree. It’s unfair”
Meanwhile, the man who spent five and a half years in prison thanks to Cociu’s decision, Andrei Crăciun, says that he didn’t go to the trial.
“I did not know about it, I did not go to the trial. But he can’t have been acquitted, he is guilty! I do not agree at all. It’s unfair,” Crăciun exclaimed.
Filip Digor, Andrei Crăciun’s lawyer, said that this was to be expected since the examination of the case was so often delayed.
“Of course, it’s an incorrect sentence. The man was not guilty and stayed in prison while there were so many violations in the case. What’s worse, the prosecutor knew about all these violations and the fact that he was mistreated,” Crăciun’s lawyer said.
“Don’t you know what [kind of] justice we have? We have no justice. I was not even present at the trial, because the sentence was repeatedly postponed and they kept asking us if we had no replies. And they kept delaying … It was done on purpose,” Digor added. “We will write to the Court of Appeal, it is mere mockery.”
When ZdG asked Ruslan Lupașcu, the prosecutor who manages the case to comment on the situation, he said:
“The sentence has not yet been drafted, only the judicial decision was pronounced. But both defendants were acquitted. The Court didn’t discover any criminal elements in their actions.”
“I’d rather not make declarations until we see the reasoned sentence, but, most likely, it is clear, the sentence will be contested. We need to see the motivation to decide on further action,” the prosecutor added.
ZdG tried to contact Lilian Cociu’s lawyer, Ion Vâzdoagă, to discuss the matter, but he didn’t return our calls.