Two years ago a 30-year-old man named Serghei Bejenari was beaten to death near the Atrium shopping center, downtown Chișinău by two people. The prosecutor accused two defendants of causing intentional injuries that led to the victim’s death.
The magistrate Olga Bejenari acquitted the two people, punishing one of them for hooliganism with a fine, and obliging him to pay in addition to the fine, non-pecuniary damage and material compensation of over 500 euros (10,000 lei), although relatives of the victim demanded more than 77,000 euros.
The third person targeted in the case, seen by the witnesses and cited by the defendants as the main culprit, was not found by the law enforcement officers, although he was announced in search shortly after the incident.
The night of May 18-19, 2018 was fatal for Serghei Bejenari, a 30-year-old man who was beaten to death near the Atrium shopping center in Chișinău. Bejenari was partying in a nearby nightclub with his brother Ion, the police officer Serghei Bradu and three women, celebrating the birthday of the police officer. Following a fight between the three and a group of athletes, Bejenari was transported to the Institute of Emergency Medicine, where he died on the morning of May 25.
Following the criminal investigation, including the hearing of witnesses and the study of images from several surveillance cameras, prosecutors later announced that they identified the persons involved in the crime.
Mihai Pârgaru was detained on May 25, and a day later Aurel Ignat was arrested. Both are K1 fighters. At the same time, prosecutors announced that a third suspect, Eugeniu Deliu, was announced in the international search. The case of Pârgaru and Ignat was sent to court in July 2018 and on June 26, this year. The magistrate Olga Bejenari of the Chișinău Court ruled the verdict for Ignat and Pârgaru.
Two Different Stories
“Having analyzed the evidence in the case, the court holds that no convincing evidence was brought that the defendants Ignat Aurel and Pârgaru Mihail committed, by simple participation, the crime of serious intentional injury to bodily integrity or health, which is life-threatening and which has resulted in the death of the victim. In the present case, following the hearings of the injured party, as well as of the witnesses, and the investigation of the evidence in the form of documents, a completely different reality was highlighted than the one pointed out by the State Prosecutor in the indictment of the defendants Ignat Aurel and Pârgaru Mihail,” specifies the sentence issued by judge Olga Bejenari.
The magistrate argued the decision to acquit the two by the fact that some witnesses claimed that “Bejenari Serghei was hit countless times in the region of the head by a tall person with a short beard, wearing red clothes. The employees of the nightclub Edgo later stopped him.
Witnesses referred to Eugeniu Deleu, later announced in international search, but not found by law enforcement two years after the crime. Witnesses also said that “Deleu jumped with his feet over Bejenari’s head” and described the aggressor as the person in red clothes who hit the deceased – Bejenari Serghei.
The judge also concluded that Aurel Ignat hit Serghei Bejenari only once, “after which he (the victim, ed. note) even got up and wanted to continue the altercation. Specialist Andrei Tertînîi, in the court hearing, underlined that by applying a single blow it was not possible to cause such traumas to the deceased and, in consequence, the death of the victim Bejenari Serghei could not occur.”
Being heard in court, the defendant Aurel Ignat denied having committed acts of hooliganism and claimed that he was a victim and applied blows “only in order to defend himself.” The court ruled that there was no evidence to convict the other person in the case, Mihail Pârgaru, because “none of the witnesses in the prosecution, not even the injured party, indicated that the defendant Pârgaru Mihail applied a blow to someone.”
The Sentence Issued by the Judge
Thus, while Mihail Pârgaru was acquitted in full, Aurel Ignat was convicted of hooliganism, being forced to pay a fine of over 2,500 euros (50,000 lei). The judge found Ignat guilty of hooliganism, ruling that he, “in agreement with Deleu Eugeniu, out of hooligan intentions, grossly violating public order and obviously showing disrespect to society, through a special impudence, in the presence of several people, in a public place, with the aim of revenge, initiated a conflict that passed into a fight, and applied multiple blows on different parts of the body with their hands and feet, causing physical pain.” Such findings were made, although the judge previously stated that Ignat would have hit the victim only once.
Although the victim’s brother, as well as his mother, demanded in court damages of over 77,000 euros (1.5 million lei), the judge only partially admitted the request and ordered that over 500 euros (10,000 lei) be paid by Aurel Ignat.
Several lawyers and judges criticize the sentence issued by magistrate Olga Bejenari on social networks. Lawyer Iurie Mărgineanu wrote that the sentence leaves the impression “that it is written by a lawyer, not by a judge.” Despite the fact that the sentence was criticized, the judge concluded in the document that the sentence in the present criminal case will have a serious preventive effect for the defendant as well as for other persons prone to committing such crimes. It will guarantee and ensure that the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution of Moldova and other state laws shall be protected, and their violation shall be fought and punished.”
The Judge’s CV who Issued the Final Decision and the Prosecutor Who Initiate the Criminal Case
Olga Bejenari was appointed a judge on December 18, 2014, for a five years term. Two weeks later, she was suspended from office for the period of the partially paid leave for childcare. According to magistrat.md portal, the magistrate was on leave until February 18, 2017.
In January 2017, she was again suspended from office for the period of additional unpaid leave for the care of a minor child. This time, the leave lasted until February 2018. In the fall of 2018, while already examining the Atrium crime case, the magistrate decided to submit her resignation request, but later decided to withdraw it.
The prosecutor Angela Pleşca from the Chișinău Prosecutor’s Office managed the Atrium criminal case. She demanded a sentence of 15 years in prisons for the two K1 fighters. However, the magistrate Olga Bejenari found that the state prosecution did not gather enough evidence to prove the guilt of the two K1 fighters. The third defendant, Eugeniu Deleu, was not found, even two years after the crime.
Requested by ZdG, prosecutor Pleşca avoided discussing the sentence, redirecting us to the Press Service of the General Prosecutor’s Office. Through the Press Service, Pleşca informed us that she would have no complaints about the management of the criminal investigation, in this case, specifying that there is conclusive evidence proving the guilt of the two, and the sentence will be contested at Chișinău Court.
At the same time, the prosecutor informed us that Eugeniu Deleu, seen by some witnesses, as well as cited by the defendants in the case, would be held responsible for the death of Serghei Bejenari. The General Inspectorate of Police announced Deleu in search, and the Prosecutor’s Office has no information about his whereabouts.
“You Can Kill a Man, but, if You Have Money, You Will be Acquitted.”
Bejenari’s relatives claim that justice was not done in this case because “justice is corrupt.” The family renounced to hire a lawyer and hopes that another decision will be taken at the Chișinău Court of Appeal. Alisa Ceraniova, the young man’s girlfriend, says she found out about the sentence from the news. She states “we expected it because in our country justice is very corrupt.”
“We are waiting for the law of the boomerang to come into action if our law has not worked. Justice is corrupt. They were all bought up, left and right. We expected it, they are people with money. If he were a simple man, he would have been arrested a long time ago, and tried in a few additional cases,” she declared for ZdG.
Ion Bejenari, Serghei’s brother, mentioned for ZdG that the witnesses in the case changed their statements along the way.
“A witness, a woman who was that evening, first said everything as she saw it. But she changed her statements when they were released, saying she had not seen anything. I am not surprised. You can kill a man, but if you have money, you will be acquitted. The decision was made for money. Take Aurel Ignat, for example. Why did he run away from the hospital and was announced in search, if he was not guilty? We will not hire a lawyer anymore because we already spent a lot of money on a lawyer, and in vain. We can hire a lawyer, but they will bribe him and what will we get out of it?” Ion Bejenari commented for ZdG.
“The court did not do justice, and we can do nothing. I have no money. If they bought off everything, what can I do? I deeply regret. They did not do justice. It is not fair. My son is in the grave and they walk under the son. There is no justice. We will go further,” said for ZdG Valentina Bejenari, the mother of the deceased young man.
Asked by ProTV reporters, judge Olga Bejenari denied that her sentence was influenced by factors other than legal ones.
“What money? We have been examining this case for two years. I heard 18 witnesses. I can’t issue a conviction sentence for the sake of someone’s whims, or because it is a high-profile criminal case.”
The lawyers of K-1 fighters Mihail Pîrgaru and Aurel Ignat, tried in the murder case of Serghei Bejenari in May 2018, claim that the sentence of the Chișinău Court.
However, according to them, the “erroneous media coverage” of the case could influence the judges of the Chișinău Court of Appeal and “be pronounced a decision that can be classified as less legal.”
In a press conference held on Friday, July 3, the defenders of the two fighters stated that no witness would have said that they saw Ignat and Pîrgaru beat Bejenari, but also that several procedures were violated. .
The Lawyers’ Responses
“The criminal case in which Aurel Ignat is targeted has never had political connotations and we do not understand why it is treated so much from a political point of view. Ignat was no longer a member of the FEA for at least six months before the incident in May 2018. This case is treated from a political point of view, but not legally,” underlined Ignat’s lawyer, Alexandru Bargan.
“The Prosecution Conducted Flawed Investigation”
“If we look carefully at the statements of the witnesses, they all confirmed that Aurel Ignat, in fact, was attacked by a group of people and his actions were aimed at defending himself, and not at all to cause anyone harm, to attack someone or other purposes. From the first hearing, Ignat mentioned that he hit Serghei Bejenari only once, an insignificant blow, and ran after his brother, Ion Bejenari, across the road from Atrium center. According to the witnesses, Serghei Bejenari later fought with other people, while Aurel Ignat was across the road.
The expert who prepared the report said that the death of Sergei Bejenari occurred as a result of open craniocerebral trauma, which could not be caused by a single blow with the hand or foot.
If the case would’ve been investigated professionally, thoroughly and objectively from the evening of 18 to 19 May 2018, this criminal case wouldn’t have resulted in the accusation of three persons for one and the same deed, without determining the correct qualification of the facts for each person separately.
The prosecutors carried out an absolutely defective investigation, which determined the court to find my client innocent. There are only two videos on the case, while if we study the report of the prosecutor, on May 25, 2018, we will find the following information: videos were taken from 15 devices, but we have two, of which we can not understand too much data, “Bargan said.
He added that other evidence collected was not attached to the materials of the case, such as telephone interceptions or about five hours of filming in the EDGO club, where all those involved in the fight stayed after the fight.
“On the basis of which evidence was the court to convict this man: of those who never existed in the case or those who are, but prove the innocence of Aurel Ignat? Or, in general, should the court be based on assumptions and the already public conviction by the company in May 2018? ” asked the defender.
“Witnesses Did not Change Their Statements”
Mihail Pârgaru’s lawyer, Mariana Arabadji, emphasized that “in our opinion, this sentence is absolutely legal and well-founded”.
“Why was the technical expertise of these recordings not performed? Or, as a result of this expertise, it was to be seen what is found in these videos. Or, after viewing the existing ones, nothing is clear, no person can be seen – the faces of Mihai Pârgaru and Aurel Ignat cannot be seen. No witness stated that they saw how the defendants, caused bodily injuries to the injured party who died,” she stated.
She states that the witnesses did not change their statements at the court hearing, as Serghei Bejenari’s brother told ZdG .
“It’s an invented lie. Witnesses testified as questioned in court. Moreover, some witnesses talk about the existence of a wooden stick, which is not found in the materials of the case,” she added.
As for the part of the sentence by which the court considered that “an athlete, being trained in this field, can calculate and take into account the force with which he applies a blow, as well as know with certainty how he can apply a blow to immobilize the opponent attacking him and in no way to cause him serious injuries that would lead to his death,” the lawyer mentioned that jokes were made, but, in fact, the court ruled on the position of the prosecution.
“It creates an impression that we live in the Middle Ages because we want a sentence for the simple reason that the prosecutor asked for 15 years in prison. The decision of the Chișinău Court of Appeal is already influenced,” concluded Arabadji.
At the same time, the lawyer Alexandru Bargan underlined that the more he heard the witnesses, the more information came out that proved the innocence of their clients.
“The aim is to force the Court of Appeal to issue a different solution than what we have up to date through erroneous media coverage,” the lawyer considers.
According to the two lawyers, the accusation, in the absence of evidence to prove the guilt of the K-1 fighters, would rely on the pressure of society in the adoption of a decision by the court.
Prosecutor’s Office Answer
Prosecutor Pleşca, who investigated the Atrium criminal case, avoided discussing the issues invoked by the lawyers of the defendants Pârgaru and Ignat and redirected us to the Press Service of the General Prosecutor’s Office.
Asked by ZdG, prosecutor Maria Vieru, the press officer of the General Prosecutor’s Office said that “the arguments of the Prosecutor’s Office against the court’s conclusion will be set out in the appeal. The prosecutor will submit the appeal to the higher court, within the time limit provided by the law. “