NEW YORK, December 8. /TASS/. Prosecutors should by December 10 offer proof to a New York court that evidence against Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, serving a 20-year prison term in the United States on charges of attempted drug smuggling, was gathered lawfully, and his defense will assess it within two weeks, Yaroshenko’s lawyer Alexey Tarasov said.
“We are waiting for the prosecutor’s office to submit documents by December 10,” Tarasov told TASS Sunday.
“Naturally, we are working, in turn, to gather evidence that would respond to prosecutors’ claims. Now we are actively gathering evidence that would speak to the contrary, in particular, that there exist secret recordings that were not provided to the defense. We will give our response by December 24,” he said.
Tarasov said the defense has “irrefutable proof that some meetings between the defendants in the case and US secret agents took place, whereas prosecutors claim such meetings have never occurred.”
“Other work is also being conducted,” the lawyer said. “This week, I met with (another defendant in the case) Nigerian drug baron Chigbo Umeh, who is currently serving a 30-year term in the prison of Allenwood, Pennsylvania. He has agreed to give additional testimony.”
Tarasov said that a day before his arrival at Allenwood, Umeh was put in a disciplinary cell under the pretext that he allegedly took extra food in the kitchen.
“For a few hours, I was not allowed to visit him, and I was told I only can communicate with him through the glass by phone, which is out of line with the general practice of contacts between lawyers and prisoners,” he said. “The lawyer has the right to direct communication. Ultimately, I received permission to meet with the Nigerian.”
“Despite the fact that such repressions started against him, he is still ready to give testimony in support of Yaroshenko,” Tarasov said. “Umeh is not the only source. I can’t yet tell you of other currently ongoing work.”
The lawyer said Yaroshenko himself is optimistic about the new turn in his case. “Konstantin is positively excited about the developments. He helps [me] study materials on his case and find the slightest mismatches in agents’ testimony. He hopes for a positive breakthrough,” he said.
At the same time, Tarasov said, the Russian pilot has complained that he has not yet been provided with comprehensive medical treatment.
US judge puts in doubt legality of evidence against Yaroshenko
Tarasov told TASS in late November that US federal judge of the Southern District of New York Jed Rakoff has put in doubt the legality of the way prosecutors had obtained evidence against Yaroshenko.
“Rakoff demanded that prosecuting attorneys submit detailed reports that would state that US special services agents, who had conducted an operation against him [Yaroshenko], did not use illegal and provocative methods,” Yaroshenko’s American lawyer told TASS then.
“The documents that the agents should sign under oath should be submitted to the court within two weeks,” Tarasov said.
"I, Jed Rakoff and prosecutor Randall Jackson who supervises the case have had a telephone conversation, during which the judge confirmed doubts of the legality of methods of special agents' operation against Konstantin Yarkoshenko," he said. "The telephone conference took place on the initiative of the federal judge."
Yaroshenko’s defense managed to find “practically irrefutable evidence that there exist audio recordings of defendants in the case on an attempt to smuggle drugs, which were hidden from the court.” The recordings were hidden from the court and defense, but prosecutors used them as a basis for their charges. The recordings were apparently made in violation of many countries’ laws by US special services agents.
Nigerian drug lord Chigbo Peter Umeh, a defendant in the case, gave evidence to testify that American special services were involved in provocations against Yaroshenko. Umeh said agents employed in the US operation deliberately staged provocative situations during which they actively used recording equipment.
One of the agents had the name of Santiago. Umeh testified that voice recorders were mounted on his body. Santiago fabricated information discrediting Yaroshenko, making recordings in the drug mafia environment in Liberia and Colombia in which he mentioned the Russian pilot.
Rakoff actually admitted that new circumstances of principled importance were discovered in Yaroshenko’s case. The pilot’s defense has insisted on a new process.
“His innocence will be proven, and he will be released with repeal of the previously passed sentence,” the lawyer said. “The court has enough grounds for that.”
Yaroshenko was detained by the US authorities in Liberia in May 2010 and then secretly taken to the United States. In September 2011, a US court sentenced him to 20 years in prison for having been allegedly involved in a criminal ring organized for smuggling a large shipment of cocaine. Yaroshenko denied the accusations.
In February 2014, Tarasov said Yaroshenko’s health “seriously deteriorated as a result of torture and abuse during arrest”, and that his client had problems with his heart, blood pressure and temperature. The pilot’s requests for medical help were apparently ignored by the administration of the Fort Dix Prison in New Jersey, he said then.