Through the case of our family 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.
Igor: 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 the 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 with a person or institution that issues that document and we received ours 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 us. One magistrate told me: “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! 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 theater 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. Igor was called the first one for declaration and barely could he say his name when Yassmin Barrios interrupted and gave a list of subjects that she prohibited us 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 we defend ourselves if we are not allowed to explain what happened? Of course we didn’t know yet that this judge didn’t want us 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 we realized that we are not allowed to speak about anything that actually does have to do with the trial. As soon as Igor began talking about Mayors that were in charge of issuing our cedulas (local identification document) Yassmin Barrios interrupted once again and prohibited this subject as well. We immediately knew that this was a subject of real importance and the one that had to be investigated further. The next subject that was declared taboo was the crime ring Cutino. Back when we just arrived to Guatemala, Igor 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 we were 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 Irina and Anastasia she simply prohibited 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. 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. When this happens an alert goes on in Public Ministry and it has to be deactivated by a designated official. In order to deactivate it Public Ministry needs to give a special resolution and subdirector of Migration office needs to confirm it. The subdirector was Wolfgang Janeiro Barrera Bravo. He successfully deactivated more than 5000 alerts. 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 ours.
Thanks to this testimony it became clear that our documents were issued in the same way as those of 5000 other people, it was equally resolved by Public Ministry and confirmed by sub-director of migration but none of those responsible for the process was ever investigated. This testimony was also confirmed by protected witness Carlos Rene Gomez Diaz who was in charge of issuing the documents in Corporation “Luz”.
From testimony of Carlos Rene Gomez Diaz we learned that sub-director 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 sub-director 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 further investigation. And all this time CICIG continued to give press conferences where they proclaimed our 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 the crime ring didn’t interest them at all, quite the opposite, they were covering it up. This became especially obvious when Yassmin Barrios prohibited Igor from amplifying his declaration when he said that he wants to comment on testimonies of witnesses that we just heard.
The most notorious violation to the law Yassmin Barrios committed on 7th day of our trial when our family received Constitutional Protection which annulled 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 Igor and 14 years of prison each for Irina and Anastasia. When prosecutor asked 14 years for Anastasia, Yassmin Barrios asked him to repeat it while looking at us and smiling widely.
It was becoming increasingly obvious that the situation is hopeless but 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 a reply from Guatemalan government about our petition for political asylum, that Anastasiais gravely ill and according to reports of INACIF she can never be imprisoned, that if the whole family gets imprisoned then Vladimir will be left completely alone, he was 5 years old at the time and we had no other family members in Guatemala.
All those explanations were in vain. Yassmin Barrios looked at us with daring hatred as if there was something personal at play. 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. 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 analyzing 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. Igor saw them himself in the underground parking lot where he was kept while waiting to be transferred back to prison. God knows how they convinced judge Sical but the next day everyone was sentenced.
We were not only sentenced but also had to be extradited to Russia upon completing the sentences 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 returned to the aggressor country, despite the fact that Anastasia according to reports of INACIF can’t ever be sent to prison 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 AMONG 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 our family violating the Law, due process and human rights. Let’s remember that all this began with failed accusation of VTB bank which works for Putin. In the duration of those audiences we saw many times how employees of Russian Embassy enter and leave 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 our 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 our family as racist, as a corrupt judge, as aggressor to human rights and as accomplice of Kremlin. 5 months after the sentencing, while we were imprisoned, she also prohibited Igor from receiving medical help – a ruling which was acknowledged as torture by National Office for Torture Prevention.
We can affirm with absolute certainty that Yassmin Barrios acted as a torturer against our family and we 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.