Moldovan political prisoners win partial victory, struggle continues

By Greg Butterfield.
May 1, 2016


April 26 — The Petrenko Group, seven communists and anti-oligarchy political prisoners in Moldova, have been freed from house arrest today.

A court in Chisinau, the Moldovan capital, transferred them to “judicial control” — essentially, release on bail — while their trial on charges of rioting and organizing disorders continues. They face up to eight years in prison if convicted.

The ruling came after months of pressure on the pro-Western regime, which is dominated by the country’s leading oligarch, Vlad Plahotniuc, including visits from several delegations of European parliamentarians and protests held from Russia to the U.S.

The ongoing abuse of the political prisoners has become a scandal for the regime’s backers in Europe.

Red Bloc party leader Grigory Petrenko and his comrades were arrested at a peaceful demonstration in Chisinau last Sept. 6. They spent almost six months in jail before being transferred to a regime of strict house arrest in late February.

Under the new terms imposed by the court, the political prisoners are still banned from taking part in protests. They will, however, be able to leave their homes, speak to the media and participate on social media, all of which were previously banned.

Petrenko charged that the court’s ban on taking part in the protests violates their constitutional rights. “In paragraph 6, the court decision says that we have no right to be in places where protests take place, which could escalate into riots. This is strange wording. I believe that in this way our constitutional rights are violated,” Petrenko told reporters after the hearing. (, April 26)

On April 24, a mass anti-oligarchy protest demanding early parliamentary elections was held in Chisinau. Outside the oligarch Plahotnic’s home, riot police carried automatic weapons, fired tear gas and clubbed protesters.

The Red Bloc denounced the repression of protesters, citing the illegal actions of the police and other security forces, and calling for the immediate arrest of Interior Minister Alexander Zhizdana and other responsible officials.