Protesters evacuate a wounded demonstrator from Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in Kiev on February 20, 2014. (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images)
[…] In April, prosecutors arrested three suspects, members of an elite unit within the “Berkut” riot police. Senior among them was Dmytro Sadovnyk, 38, a decorated commander, who was accused of ordering his men to fire on the crowds on the morning of Feb. 20. The three stand accused of massacring 39 unarmed protesters.
On Sept. 19, the case took a turn when a judge released Sadovnyk into house arrest – and, two weeks later, he went missing.
Maidan activists were outraged, convinced that a corrupt system had let a killer escape. The judge was placed under investigation. The prosecutor said in a statement: “D. Sadovnyk, suspected of committing an extremely grievous crime, aiming to avoid punishment, disappeared from his place of permanent residence.”
But in a country where justice often isn’t blind, there’s another possibility: Sadovnyk was being framed, and saw flight as his best option. In court last month, he called the case against him “a political lynching.” In the days before he vanished, his wife and his lawyer say, Sadovnyk and his family received death threats.
A Reuters examination of Ukraine’s probes into the Maidan shootings – based on interviews with prosecutors, defence attorneys, protesters, police officers and legal experts – has uncovered serious flaws in the case against Sadovnyk and the other two Berkut officers.
Among the evidence presented against Sadovnyk was a photograph. Prosecutors say it shows him near Kiev’s Independence Square on Feb. 20, wearing a mask and holding a rifle with two hands, his fingers clearly visible.
The problem: Sadovnyk doesn’t have two hands. His right hand, his wife told Reuters, was blown off by a grenade in a training accident six years ago. As prosecutors introduced the image at a hearing in April, said Yuliya Sadovnyk, her husband removed a glove and displayed his stump to the courtroom. […]
Read in full Special Report: Flaws found in Ukraine’s probe of Maidan massacre at Reuters