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On 28 September, a roundtable event titled Justice and the rule of law in the EU – the case of Vladimir Kokorev was held at the European Parliament in Brussels, under the patronage of Fulvio Martusciello, member of the EPP Group in the European Parliament and Chairman of the Delegation for EU-Israel relations.
The roundtable was attended by experts, journalists, lawyers as well as friends and family members of Vladimir Kokorev, a Spanish citizen of Russian-Jewish origin who have been kept at prison on the Canary Islands for two years now, with his wife and son.
The family were detained in Panama in September 2015 based on the international warrant issued by Ana Isabel de Vega Serrano of Las Palmas Court No 5, on suspicion of having laundered money on behalf of Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the President of Equatorial Guinea.
The Kokorevs have been in prison for 24 months despite documentary evidence of their innocence submitted by their defense and full transparency of their companies. The case was classified, which prevented their attorneys-at-law from getting access to case materials.
The case was declassified in February 2017, following an official inquiry from members of the European Parliament to Spanish regulatory authorities to clarify the factual background of the case. The attorneys-at-law were astonished to see that the prosecution failed to seize evidence of Kokorevs’ guilt not only for two years of their imprisonment but during the entire “investigation” since 2004.
Spanish attorneys for Kokorev family believe that the bias in the investigation comes from political motivations, and a recent resolution of judge Ana Isabel de Vega Serrano on extending the pre-trial detention for two more years raises major concerns about her true motives.
Ilya Weisberg, Israeli attorney to Kokorev family, stated the case itself and investigation methods had nothing to do with legal practices, and pointed at a few major violations of the Spanish law.
Everyone was touched by an emotional speech delivered by Inna, Vladimir Kokorev’s niece, who arrived from Israel to take part at the roundtable. She gave us an interview and expressed her opinion on the judge’s resolution to prolong the period of detention for two more years:
“Around two months ago, the judge resolved to continue Kokorevs’ detention for another two years instead of closing the case and releasing them with apologies. Why? What is the reason? Does she want them to die in prison?
My uncle is 66 years old. He suffers from heart diseases. He had a heart attack and a stroke, and underwent surgery two years ago. We know he is barred from professional healthcare at prison, and his wife Yulia has health issues, too. Fortunately, their son Igor is sound but this is because of his young age. Igor, during his imprisonment, has become a father but, thus far, has been unable to see his young daughter who is 18 months old now.
I am not a judicial expert. Suppose, lawyers will tell you the unbiased information about the case. I just hope that you, dear members of parliament, are going to study the materials and give your fair opinion on the current situation on the case.
We used to count on Spanish justice two years ago. But now we cannot believe that a European court of today can be driven by some reasons other than law. Are they driven by the same reasons as the magistrates of the Canary Islands court who labeled all Russians as gangsters and Romanian women as prostitutes, in their private talks? The record of their conversation made the headlines and created a scandal in Spain but the involved judges escaped any prosecution. Is judge Ana Isabel de Vega Serrano who serves justice in the Canary Islands guided by the same reasons?
If my uncle were an Israeli citizen, Israel would stand up for him; however, Kokorev is a citizen of Spain, which ranks as the most anti-Semitic country in the European Union and where some judges still have the attitudes that were typical for the 15th century.
Spain proposes citizenship for Sephardic Jews whose ancestors were forced to flee from Spain 500 years ago. The applicants who can prove their Sephardic descent receive the Spanish passport. By doing this, Spain seeks to enhance its image of a European democratic country. I wish I knew how many people took advantage of that opportunity to claim Spanish citizenship and I want to give advice to those who are not sure whether to apply: Watch out for the country where you would be deprived of any rights and be made whipping boys at any time.
We are not going to accept the situation that our relatives are in prison for no fault of theirs, and we ask European bodies for help and support. Not only are the rights of a single family trampled underfoot on the Canaries, but the European values are also trampled, especially a human right to due process.”
A day before the roundtable in Brussels, it became known that Yulia, Kokorev’s wife, was reportedly released from the Las Palmas prison and that the amount of bail for Kokorev himself was cut down to €600 000, from €2 million. Their defense attorneys believe that even if the Kokorev family are finally released, they would resemble people placed under house arrest as they would be forbidden to leave the Canaries, and the islands would be a new big prison for them.
In his official statement on the results of the roundtable, Fulvio Martusciello said:
“As a member of European Parliament, I speak for justice and the supremacy of law. As chairman of the European Parliament’s Delegation for relations with Israel, I advocate the Jewish belief and legacy. This is my mission. And for both reasons, I am deeply concerned about the Kokorev Case.
It is not for us to decide if Mr. Kokorev is guilty or innocent of the charges against him. But what should concern us all is the fact that he, his wife and son are being denied justice and due process of law. Two years in detention without specific charges with the prospect of a further two years for no good reason is an affront to all that we Europeans believe in.
Being able to answer charges and defend oneself in court are the basic human rights. I am taking the case under special control and propose that the case be reviewed at a European Parliament session as part of the independent investigation.
We encourage and give our full support to Kokorev family’s defense attorneys in order to bring any relevant actions in this matter against Spain before the European Court of Human Rights, and place The Kokorev Case in the High Courts of Madrid. The treatment of Vladimir Kokorev is shameful, anti-Semitic and an affront to the basic values of the EU.”