• Braguța Case: Three Cases, Over 20 Defendants and One Defendant Behind Bars

    Braguța Case: Three Cases, Over 20 Defendants and One Defendant Behind Bars
    08 June 2020 | 16:38

    Three years after Andrei Braguța, a 32 years old man, died in police custody, three criminal cases were initiated, involving over 20 people among whom are police officers, Braguța’s co-detainees, and medical staff. However, from the 20 persons involved only one defendant is serving his prison sentence. At the same time, the prosecutor who handled the case of Braguța’s arrest and the judge who issued an arrest warrant for Braguța, were fired, but both of them want to return to work in the system and appealed the decisions in the court. In 2017, Braguța died after being cruelly beaten in the Chișinău Detention Center.

    George Floyd, an American black man, was mistreated by a police officer and died. Floyd’s death sparked protests in the United States and other countries in the world. In August 2017, Andrei Braguța was killed while being in police custody. Although three years have past since then, the case didn’t reach an end. Braguța’s case has several similarities with Floyd’s case. 

    The First Braguța Case is Analyzed by the Magistrates for Seven Months

    In the first Braguța case were sentenced four detainees and two police officers. The Chișinău Court sentenced a guard and a detainee to four and five years in prison with execution. Three other former detainees and a guard were sentenced and their sentences were suspended. In the end, the guard was acquitted. 

    Since October 2019, the first Braguța is assessed by the magistrates from the Chișinău Court of Appeal. The case reached the Court of Appeal after the victim’s lawyers challenged the decision of the first court, because Braguța family considers the punishments applied to those guilty of a person’s death too lenient.

    Ziarul de Gardă asked Braguța family’s lawyer about the first Braguța case. 

    “At the end of February, the meeting was scheduled to take place in May. But the meeting did not take place due to two situations: the pandemic, and the resignation of Mr. Pleşca, who was part of the panel of judges. A new panel of judges is to be established. And we are already waiting for a new hearing,” mentioned the Braguța family’s lawyer, Vadim Vieru.

    Ziarul de Gardă spoke with Ruslan Lupașcu, the prosecutor of the case. Lupașcu told us that the last hearing at the Court of Appeal (February 17, 2020) was postponed due to the fact that one of the defendants fell ill and did not appear at the court hearing.

    “There are many participants in the trial. There are seven defendants, and many lawyers, two prosecutors, and two representatives of the injured party. Everyone was present, but due to a defendant, who invoked teeth pain, the meeting did not take place,” Lupașcu told us.

    The Second and the Third Case of Braguța II Are in the First Court

    The second case of Braguța includes 13 police officers who were at work during the period when Andrei Braguța was in the detention facility. The police officers are accused of inhuman treatment. The case is in the first court. According to the case prosecutor, 12 of the 13 accused police officers have already been interrogated and none of them admits their guilt.

    “We stayed at the hearing of the last defendant. Twelve have already been heard. This is already the final stage. All defendants have testified. They are cooperating with the trial, but do not admit guilt. I can’t provide data on their punishment if they are found guilty because I will not be fair. We make an analysis of all the circumstances that were established in the investigation (both in the criminal investigation phase and in the judicial phase) at the end.  We individualize the punishment for each of the defendants, considering all the circumstances. They are accused of violating art. 167 paragraph two, which provides for seven to eight years in prison, a fine and deprivation of the right to hold any official position,” the prosecutor told us.

    On June 16, the next court hearing in the second case of Braguța will take place at the Chișinău Court, Buiucani District.

    The third case was opened after Braguța’s death. The case investigates doctors and medical staff who did not provide Braguța with the necessary care. The case has reached the magistrates of the Chișinău Court. The first court hearing was set in June. According to Braguța family’s lawyer, Vadim Vieru, none of the accused admits their guilt.

    Following Andrei Braguța’s death, three cases were opened. Three years passed from Braguța’s death, but there is only one defendant in prison out of 20 persons who are accused. Braguța family’s lawyer, the Braguța case is complex. This is why several defendants were not sentenced. 

    “Currently, there is only one person behind bars. The person behind the bars is one of the co-detainees with whom Mr. Andrei Braguța was placed. The rest are investigated at large. With regret, a person was acquitted in the first case. The person was not convicted on any charge.

    There are two factors. The objective factor is that this case (the one from the Court of Appeal) is a complex case. There were many meetings and expertise was performed. We will insist on a maximum penalty to be applied. In the second case, there is a very large number of defendants. There were situations when the defendants or the defendants’ lawyers did not appear. According to the law, the hearing could be postponed if one of the 13 defendants or a lawyer is absent. There is a large number of persons involved in the case. This is why the case lasts for so long,” explained the Promo-Lex lawyer, Vadim Vieru.

    On August 15, 2017, Andrei Braguța was detained, after the police tried to stop a Volkswagen Passat for exceeding the speed limit.

    According to the prosecutor, when Braguța was stopped he was drunk. He was detained for 72 hours and taken to the Detention Center. Later, he was accused of using physical force on police officers.

    On August 17, 2017, prosecutor Ivan Filimon informed Braguța of the accusation. The next day, the prosecutor went to court, requesting 30 days of arrest. Braguța was sentenced to 30 days of arrest and was transferred from pre-trial detention facility to Penitentiary no. 13. 

    On August 21, 2017, Filimon changed his mind, requesting the authorization of Braguța’s hospitalization in the Clinical Psychiatric Hospital in Chișinău for 30 days, for the performance of the psychiatric examination in inpatient conditions. The prosecutor justified his approach by the fact that he found out that Braguța was monitored by a psychiatrist since 2012.

    The next day, the judge admitted the prosecutor’s request and ordered Braguța’s hospitalization in the Psychiatric Hospital starting with August 23, 2017 and until September 22. After several suspicious circumstances, Braguța wasn’t hospitalized in Psychiatry, although there was a court decision.

    On Agust 29, 2017, Braguța died in the Pruncul Penitentiary. The direct cause of death was established as respiratory failure, purulent bronchopneumonia, a fact confirmed by the ascertaining medical certificate.

    However, his relatives claimed that the man was beaten in the penitentiary, where he was placed in pre-trial detention for 30 days. Braguța’s relatives claimed that there were traces of violence on his body.

    The prosecutor’s office published video images showing that Braguța was brutally beaten in the isolator by his cellmates. The guards in the isolator did nothing to stop Braguța’s cellmates who were beating him. In October 2017, the co-detainees were investigated in pre-trial detention, and the police officers – under house arrest.

    The Judge and Prosecutor Who Made the Decisions in the Braguța Case are Fighting to Return to the System

    Prosecutor Ivan Filimon, who handled the case and Judge Iurie Obadă, who issued an arrest warrant for Braguța, were fired. Filimon challenged the decision by which he was dismissed in court. In September 2019, the Chișinău Court of Appeal rejected his request to terminate his disciplinary proceedings.

    “The Civil College declares as unfounded the argument that the disciplinary procedure should be examined in two months.  The court considers as reasonable the term for examining the disciplinary case regarding the Prosecutor in the Chișinău Prosecutor’s Office, Ciocana District, Ivan Filimon.

    The Civil College did not find any violation in restricting the right to defense, violating the principle of the presumption of innocence, ignoring the defense witnesses or rejecting the request to send interpellations, according to Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. 

    Regarding the arguments that he could not have submitted an application regarding his hospitalization in a psychiatric institution, only on the grounds that the person was aggressive and behaved inappropriately, the Civil College notes that the prosecutor did not take any measures to establish the cause of Andrei Braguța’s misconduct on 16 August 2017. From the materials of the disciplinary case, and the plaintiff’s explanations, the prosecutor also didn’t consult doctors or medical documents prepared following the medical workers’ visits to the detained person, but considered that Andrei Braguța was delusional due to the state of withdrawal in which he was after drug use,” it is mentioned in the decision of the Court of Appeal.

    Ivan Filimon appealed to the Supreme Court of Justice. The meeting was postponed to June 17 this year.

    Judge Iurie Obada also challenged his dismissal to the Superior Council of Magistracy at the Chișinău Court of Appeal. At the last court hearing, Judge Anatol Pahopol admitted Obada’s request to verify the constitutionality of some provisions of the legislation. Subsequently, the examination of the case was suspended.

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