Trial of Metropolitan Ionathan of Tulchyn and Bratslav starts in Vinnytsia
Metropolitan Ionathan hopes that the judges will objectively assess the "evidence" of his non-existent "guilt" provided by the SBU investigators.
On 5 June 2023, the Vinnytsia City Court started considering the case against Metropolitan Ionathan (Yeletskikh) of Tulchyn and Bratslav, reports vinbazar.com.
According to Denys Zakabluk, a spokesman for the Security Service of Ukraine in the Vinnytsia region, the trial was supposed to start in the Tulchyn District Court back in winter, but the judges recused themselves, so the case was reassigned to the regional centre.
As reported, the bishop was charged under four articles of the Criminal Code: Part 2 of Article 109 (actions aimed at forceful change or overthrow of the constitutional order or take-over of government), Part 1 of Article 110 (trespass against the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine), Part 3 of Article 436-2 (justification, recognition as legitimate, denial of the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, glorification of its participants) and Part 2 of Article 161 (Violation of citizens' equality based on their religious preferences).
On the eve of the trial, the press service of the Tulchyn Eparchy published a statement noting that the charges against the episcope "have no legal and procedural basis".
"Metropolitan Ionathan decisively states that he did not search the Internet networks for leaflets with anti-Ukrainian texts, did not reproduce them, did not store and distribute them among the clergy, and did not search the entire Vinnytsia region for accomplices to help the Russian army," the message stresses. “Metropolitan Ionathan hopes and believes that Vinnytsia judges will carefully, patiently and objectively study the "evidence" presented to them by the SBU of his non-existent "guilt", scrupulously examine some intriguing fragments of the SBU video materials and protocols of investigative proceedings in Bershad and Tulchyn (Vinnytsia region, Ukraine)".
The eparchy points out that "the SBU accusations of Metropolitan Ionathan's inciting interfaith enmity and an attempt on the integrity of Ukraine’s territory are tendentious because they are based on the anti-historical conclusion of one of the two experts about Metropolitan Ionathan's church-polemical article" and "the second SBU expert in his review does not find the political 'guilt' of the bishop in the said article, which will be proved at the court hearing".
The press service also notes that the searches, which resulted in the SBU launching criminal cases against the metropolitan, were carried out with violations of procedure.
"The specific place of discovery by the investigator and his seizure of the so-called ‘material evidence’ of the alleged guilt of the metropolitan was not recorded on a video camera, the accused and independent witnesses were not invited. The unexpected appearance of the so-called 'material evidence' to record it in the guest room raises questions for the prosecutor," the press service reports.
The next court hearing is scheduled for 8 June.
According to the SBU statement, Metropolitan Ionathan faces up to 8 years in prison.