Through the case of my family (Bitkov case) Guatemalan judge Yassmin Barrios proved to be accomplice of Kremlin in political persecution against us as well as a go-to judge of a powerful transnational crime ring Cutino whose members she not only helped to cover up but also explicitly ordered to destroy any evidence against them.
In prison I received the news that we will be judged in the Tribunal of Yassmin Barrios. At first I was content because we spent years awaiting trial. It was one of the tactics of CICIG: let us rot in prison without even a judge. I was sure that once a trial begins and all the evidence is on the table, we will finally reunite as a family and everything will go back to normal. I had absolutely no doubt that any judge will see the injustice and absurdity of what was happening here. Plus in all the history of Guatemala no immigrant was ever imprisoned for document irregularities, in fact no immigrant was ever even brought to trial for it. You see, the law here, like in most countries, states that responsibility for an anomalous document lies on a person or institution that issued that document and we received them directly from Guatemalan government, so what could possibly go wrong for us? Of course I should have known better, after all, when Kremlin puts one of its state banks to persecute you, don’t expect justice to just show up, it should be fought for with your life. Kremlin sent VTB Bank here to Guatemala to corrupt the local officials and to extradite us. They did not achieve the former so instead we were imprisoned. That was achieved thanks to the help of CICIG, FECI and judge Erika Aifan. But still I was sure that with a different judge everything will get resolved.
The prison which I was sent to was meant for political prisoners and as such it was full of lawyers and even some magistrates. Once they heard the name of Yassmin Barrios they did not look very hopeful for me. One magistrate told me: «This Yassmin Barrios hates businessmen in general, she can sentence you just for being one». I thought that to be an exaggeration but the reality was beyond my worst nightmares.
Finally came the day of the trial, the first of many. We were brought to the tribunal and the audience began. The first thing Yassmin Barrios did was to take away our translator. According to Law every foreigner if judged in another country must be assigned a translator. One can speak another language casually and even well but who would know judicial side of a foreign language unless explicitly studying it as part of a profession! Nevertheless Yassmin Barrios did the following: she asked me if I need a translator to which I of course replied yes; then she announced: «he understood the question and so we rule that he speaks Spanish well enough». Literally like this. You can hear it for yourself, here is the original audio from that audience.
Everyone was shocked. The argument as to weather our family is allowed to have a translator during audiences or not lasted for 3 days because the lawyers of others in our process were raising their protests one by one. They didn’t have to do it but they supported our family throughout the whole trial. Yassmin Barrios kept denying every single protest until Claudia Gonzalez from CICIG said that in her opinion we should be allowed to understand the audience. After 3 days of denying the protests one by one (and there are 44 accused in our process) Yassmin Barrios agreed to allow us the translator. Such a beginning meant 2 things for us: first is that there was no hope for a fair trial and second is that the one who had real power here was CICIG. And this was but the very beginning of an absurd theatre that they called «trial».
The next argument happened immediately after we won the translator; now the judge didn’t want us to have the right to declare. I was called the first one for my declaration and barely could I say my name when Yassmin Barrios gave me a list of subjects that she prohibited me to speak about:
- political persecution that we suffer from Russian government
- anything about VTB bank which was hard to avoid because the whole process against us began on the accusations of that bank
- anything about Guatemalan public officers or governmental officials; and this one was impossible to avoid because we were accused of using documents which were issued to us by Government of Guatemala.
How can I defend my family if I am not allowed to explain what happened? Of course I didn’t know yet that this judge didn’t want me to defend at all, she already knew the sentence and the least of her worries was knowing that we are innocent. That’s probably why she didn’t bother to make any coherent arguments as to why she prohibits us from talking about these subjects. The one she used in this case was that none of the above subjects had anything to do with the trial.
Almost from the beginning I realized that I am not allowed to speak about anything that actually does have to do with the trial. This proved to be especially true when Yassmin Barrios interrupted me once again. This time I was talking about Mayors that were in charge of issuing our cedulas (local identification document). I immediately knew that this was a subject of real importance and the one I had to investigate more about. The next subject that was declared taboo was the crime ring Cutino. Back when we just arrived to Guatemala, I contracted a law firm Cutino International which worked closely with the Government of Guatemala and they were the ones helping us with all the legal work of receiving Guatemalan documents. As it turned out years later, after the trial has already began, it was not a simple law firm but a crime ring where participated many governmental officials, prosecutors and judges. So now I was not allowed to talk about them either.
Numerous protests of our lawyers and of lawyers of others had zero effect; Yassmin Barrios kept on violating the law and due process only with more efficiency. To my wife Irina and to my daughter Anastasia she simply prohibited from declaring once they rejected her list of taboo subjects.
The trial turned into a real lynching where Yassmin Barrios only pretended to administer justice but the ones who really ruled the court were CICIG and FECI. The other painfully obvious thing was that both the judge and CICIG were covering up the real criminal structure Cutino. One of the most impressive testimonies was given by witness Jose Samayoa who was director of corporation «Luz» which also dealt with the business of documents issuing (and don’t doubt that in Guatemala it’s a whole business with its own infrastructure). He testified that in only 2 years that he was in business there were more than 5000 cases HIT. Case HIT is when one person receives documents with two different names. In order for the alert of case HIT to be deactivated in someone’s documents, Public Ministry needs to give a special resolution and subdirector of Migration office needs to confirm it. The subdirector was Wolfgang Janeiro Barrera Bravo. The witness gave all the information on how this illegal process was administered by the subderictor and yet no one ever investigated him. He also expressed his shock that the only case ever brought to trial our of 5000 was mine.
Thanks to this testimony it became clear that my documents were issued in the same way as those of 5000 people, it was equally resolved by Public Ministry and confirmed by subdirector of migration but none of the people responsible for the process was investigated. This testimony was also confirmed by protected witness Carlos Rene Gomez Diaz which was in charge of issuing the documents in Corporation «Luz».
From testimony of Carlos Rene Gomez Diaz we learned that subdirector of migration office Wolfang Barrera changed Migration Regulations to facilitate the passport business. According to new regulations it did not matter anymore if a person wishing to receive Guatemalan passport spoke Spanish or not. Carlos Rene also testified about various foreigners that received Guatemalan passport, in particular one Ukrainian citizen who was identifying himself in Guatemala under the name of David Estrin Panich. In his procedure were used permanent residence and naturalization signed by Mayra Veliz, who back at that time was subdirector of Migration office and then became General Secretary of Public Ministry; as well as by Raul Morales who was Minister of Foreign Affairs.
CICIG, FECI and Yassmin Barrios were not in the least bit interested in these testimonies. They let them pass without ordering any type of investigation. And all this time CICIG continued to give press conferences where they proclaimed my family as dangerous criminals that falsify documents, they also kept informing their donor countries that they have a very high profile case in which they uncovered a whole crime ring dedicated to document falsification. In reality nor the truth, nor investigation of the real crime ring didn’t interest them at all; quite the opposite they were covering it all up. This became especially obvious when Yassmin Barrios prohibited me from amplifying my declaration when I said that I want to comment on the testimonies of the witnesses that we just heard.
The most notorious violation to the law Yassmin Barrios committed on 7th day of our trial when my family receive Constitutional Protection which annulated the whole trial recognizing us as immigrants and as such not responsible for documents issued by Guatemalan Government. Yassmin Barrios simply denied to obey the order of Higher Court. She gave unbelievable argument: «your protection could still be appealed and therefore I will not follow it». This is not just a violation of due process, its far worse: the judge turned into our prosecutor.
The culmination of this lynching happened when FECI asked for 19 years of prison for me and my wife Irina and for 14 years of prison for our daughter Anastasia for documents issued by the government! When prosecutor asked 14 years for Anastasia, Yassmin Barrios asked him to repeat it while looking at me and smiling widely.
It was becoming increasingly obvious that the situation is hopeless for us but I guess we still believed that there was something human in those judges. We used our last words in that trial to explain that we are awaiting reply from Guatemalan government about our petition for political asylum, that our daughter is gravely ill and according to reports of their INACIF can never be imprisoned, that if the whole family gets imprisoned then our son Vladimir will be left completely alone, he was 5 years old at the time and we had no family members in Guatemala.
All those explanations were in vain. Yassmin Barrios looked at us with unhidden and unexplainable hatred. We felt desperately hopeless in front of such injustice. Finally Yassmin Barrios decided to sentence everyone immediately after finishing the last hearing, that is to say without having any time to study the evidence, nor to analyse the case. That’s when the other judges of her tribunal could not stand it anymore and judge Gervi Sical protested that they need more time, that such sentencing would be a violation of due process and of constitutional guarantees. We are talking about 44 people involved with very doubtful or in some cases no evidence against them and with sentences of 10-30 years. The other judges said that they can not make a decision like that without analysing at all.
Yassmin Barrios agreed to wait for 1 day. But even that 1 day the judges did not spend studying the evidence, instead that whole time they spent with prosecutor of CICIG Claudia Gonzalez, leaving together in the evening. I saw them myself in the underground parking lot where I was kept while waiting to be transferred back to prison. God knows how was pressured judge Sical but the next day everyone was sentenced. My family was not only sentenced but we also had to be expulsed to Russia upon completing the sentences. That is despite the fact that there is no extradition treaty between Russia and Guatemala, despite the fact that a person asking for political asylum can not be expulsed to the aggressor country, despite the fact that my daughter according to reports of INACIF and according to the established precedence of judge Galvez could never be sent to prison because it could be fatal for her and most of all despite the fact that we have a 5 years old son who would be left alone if his whole family is sentenced. Others were sentenced as well. Sentencing 44 people is a long process which began at 8:30 in the morning and ended at night. There were cries and screams from all around us and no one paid attention to one detail.
Yassmin Barrios ordered destruction of all material evidence amongst which were documents signed by Mayra Veliz and other governmental officials, documents that proved our innocence and exposed the crime ring Cutino with all its members.
That is how the tribunal of Yassmin Barrios completed the lynching of my family violating the Law, due process and human rights. Let me remind the reader that all this began with failed accusation of VTB bank which works for Putin. During the whole trial many including myself saw how employees of Russian Embassy constantly entered the rooms of the tribunal. And as you could observe for yourself Yassmin Barrios not only covered up the real crime ring but even ordered the destruction of evidence against them. Cutino crime ring includes at least 15 public officers of high rank like Mayra Veliz and Raul Morales.
After the case of Rios Montt journalists created an image of Yassmin Barrios where she defends human rights. Obviously she does defend human rights of some people, for example, a month after she sentenced my family she gave only house arrest to members of Salvatrucha gang for the same accusations, only that in this case they indeed had fake documents; they were from El Salvador but she did not order their expulsion. She defended their human rights perfectly.
Yassmin Barrios acted against my family as racist, as a corrupt judge, as aggressor to human rights and as accomplice of Kremlin. 5 months after the sentencing, while I was in prison, she also prohibited me from receiving medical help – a ruling which was acknowledged as torture by National Office for Torture Prevention.
— Rolando Alvarado (@AbogadoRolandoA) June 5, 2018
I can affirm with absolute certainty that Yassmin Barrios acted as a torturer against my family and I hope that someday she will pay the legal consequences of her acts. But as of today she is free and is happily taking pictures with democrats and other politicians that surely don’t even suspect of what type of person they have next to them.
Let the world know the truth about this judge while the consequences of her irresponsible actions can still be corrected by better people.