‘They wanted me to confess for more cases, but I said they should stop earning points on me’
A short frail man, looking quite pitifully, was sitting behind the bars in the court hall. What he was saying was sometimes not very understandable. His words showed that he sometimes did not understand well enough what was going on around him.
That’s they way Vasil Yuzepchuk could be seen by those who attended the sitting of the Supreme Court. At present this 30-year-old man is kept in Minsk pre-trial prison, waiting for being executed, as his death verdict is a judgment at law already.
Vasil Yuzepchuk was accused of having murdered six elderly women and committed a series of thefts in Drahichyn district and a holdup in Hrodna oblast. On 29 June 2009 the Criminal Cases board of Brest oblast court sentenced him to death with confiscation of property. On 2 October, when the College Board of the Supreme Court pronounced its opinion, it became a judgment at law, which means that the convict can be executed at any time.
What do we know about this man? Vasil Yuzepchuk is 30 years old, a gypsy by nationality, native of the Ukraine. He has no citizenship. His mother lives in the village of Tataryia in Drahichyn district of Brest oblast. Yuzepchuk was living with a common law wife and children. He had no official work, and earned his living helping to villagers: digging potatoes, hewing and moving grass. He has previous convictions, one of them – for theft of hens.
The official media urgently created him an image of a dangerous criminal. Yuzepchuk even became the hero of the program Crimes of Century. The press depicted him as a malignant serial killer, violent and ruthless, who killed with the aim to seize the assets of the elderly women who gave him work. Yuzepchuk was shown as a brute who planned the murders with his associate Huchenka (who got a life sentence) and strangled the women with an exceptional violence. This ‘narrow-minded’ person (actually, according to the conclusion of an expert commission Yuzepchuk has a mild mental deficiency) is also characterized as the ‘evident leaders in this criminal duo’.
However, those who were present at the Supreme Court on 2 October have their own impressions about the convict, which are quite different from his ‘official’ portrait.
‘I read about this case in the newspapers and saw the TV program about it. However, at the trial I got a completely different impression about Yuzepchuk’s personality,’ said the activist of the campaign Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus Iryna Toustsik. ‘As it was found, he can neither read nor write and often spoke about it at the trial. He complained: ‘If I could write I would have written a lot, but I cannot do it as I am illiterate. I even could not write my mother when the trial would take place.’
He could not but call for pity with his appearance, behavior and helplessness.
‘One can’t always understand what Yuzepchuk is saying. Judging by his statements, he has little understanding of the events and of the time dimension. Imagine, this man does not distinguish the months. He cannot tell the month when a certain event happened. He can only tell only in general, whether it was in winter or in summer,’ comments I.Toustsik.
It is not very difficult to get a necessary confession from a man who can neither read nor write. The newspaper covers were full of such ‘terrible confessions’. ‘His confessions make one’s hair stand on end: ‘May be I have killed forty women, I still haven’t given the testimony how many there were,’ wrote Viacherni Brest about the ‘earlier unknown details of this terrible story’.
Of course, none of the state newspapers published his statements that he had been beaten and the investigators threatened to imprison his whole family. Yuzepchuk also complained that he was starved, kept in a black hole for a long time, forced to take unknown pills and drink alcohol (unlawful methods of influence on one’s psychics and the ability to adequately perceive the reality). The statements about the use of violence towards him were ignored by the court, though the bodily injures that were registered by an expert could be inflicted to Yuzepchuk could be inflicted in the time and circumstances he stated, in Brest pre-trial prison. Did the court ‘believe’ the words of the police?
At the trial V.Yuzepchuk pleaded innocent and said he did not kill the elderly women. On the other hand, he did not make a secret of the fact of his acquaintance with them: ‘All villagers know that I was doing some housework for them, but I did not kill them…’.
At the trial the convict was trying to explain why he had perjured himself during the investigation and said that he allegedly had killed: ‘They wanted me to confess for more cases, but I said they should stop earning points on me’.
As stated by the lawyers who, the verdict of Brest oblast court is based on guesses and on the confessions of Yuzepchuk and Huchenka. There is no direct evidence. The verdict is mainly based on testimonies of police officers.
Human rights defenders express their concern with the fact that the death verdict to Vasil Yuzepchuk can be implemented in the near future.
‘As said by the lawyers, everything is not quite clear in this case. As a matter of fact, Yuzepchuk was beaten in the pre-trial prison, which was registered. According to the expert conclusion he also has a mild mental deficiency and he has difficulties orienting in his environment. That’s why we, human rights defenders, have very serious precautions that his guilt hasn’t been proved well enough, and express our concern with the fact that soon he can be executed. We have already filed a complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee and are awaiting its registration. We will also address the presidential administration on behalf of the Belarusian human rights defenders, with a call not to implement the pending death verdicts (at present we have two such cases in Belarus) and will continue demanding introducing a death penalty moratorium,’ stated the member of the Human Rights Center Viasna Valiantsin Stefanovich.