Odesa Court of Appeal partially overturned the conviction of activist and blogger Serhiy Sternenko, who was found guilty of kidnapping and robbing a local council member, as well as illegal possession of weapons.
The Court found Sternenko non-guilty of attacking the official “with the goal of possessing his property” for the lack of evidence and closed the case.
Judges left unchanged the part of the verdict that concerned kidnapping. Sternenko and another activist, Ruslan Demchuk, were convicted of kidnapping a local council member, Serhii Shcherbych, in 2015 but are exempted from responsibility due to the statute of limitations.
Judges found Sternenko guilty of illegally possessing a weapon and gave him a suspended sentence of three years in jail, with one year of probation. If Sternenko commits a crime during the year of probation, he will serve three years in prison.
The Court said Sternenko illegally possessed a single cartridge, which could be dangerous to the public because the activist took part in protests.
Sternenko rejected the charges and said he will appeal the sentencing in the Supreme Court of Ukraine.
Back in February, Sternenko was sentenced to 7 years and 3 months in jail, as well as confiscation of half of his property, for attacking Shcherbych allegedly with the goal of obtaining hr 300 and some credit cards.
Then in April, Sternenko and Demchuk were released and put under house arrest after filing for an appeal.
The trial against Sternenko and Demchuk prompted protests in many Ukrainian cities, with crowds demanding Sternenko’s immediate release and long-awaited reform of the country’s judicial system.
Protestors and activists said the trial was corrupt and politically motivated, pointing out to a number of administrative breaches in court proceedings and lack of evidence for the conviction.
Sternenko, a prominent critic of top Ukrainian politicians and specifically the local government in his home town, Odesa, has blamed Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s deputy chief of staff Oleh Tatarov and Odesa Mayor Hennady Trukhanov for fabricating the case.
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