Prosecutors Drop Indictment Over 2003 Murder

Judge says there is evidence suspect's confession was coerced by police.

In a rare move Wednesday, the Jerusalem district prosecutor's office withdrew a murder indictment filed earlier this year against a resident of the capital, because of suspicions that the suspect's confession had been coerced.

The prosecution's decision came after the office concluded that the defendant's admission to the police that he had committed a murder would not be admissible in court because of evidence it was coerced.

The suspect was released from detention and confined to house arrest about two months ago, after a Jerusalem District Court judge raised suspicions that his confession had not been voluntary.

His lawyers had also claimed that his remarks were actually translated incorrectly, and that he never actually admitted to the crime. Once the charges were dropped on Wednesday, the restrictions confining the defendant to his home were lifted completely.

The suspect, Vladimir Kochriavi, 39, lives in the Gonen neighborhood of Jerusalem with his wife and three children. According to the indictment that has now been lifted, in 2003, Kochriavi angrily left home after a heated argument with his wife one evening. Early the next morning he went to the Feingold Courtyard, an area of restaurants just off the city's Jaffa Road thoroughfare. There, he purchased a bottle of cognac, which he drank with two other people whom he met there, including a man named Oleg Aniskovich.

According to the indictment, an argument ensued between Kochriavi and Aniskovich, after which Kochriavi and the third man found a sharp knife and stabbed Aniskovich to death. They then cleaned up the murder scene and took the knife. However, Kochriavi was said to have run to Jaffa Road to hail an ambulance following the stabbing, and to have helped the ambulance crew in their efforts to resuscitate the victim.

Jerusalem police opened an investigation following the murder and the file remained open for years. Kochriavi was questioned twice by police, and then in January of this year, after police obtained new evidence, the suspect was arrested. He originally denied that he had committed the murder and claimed that it was the third man on the scene who killed Aniskovich and then fled.

But the police and prosecutor's office said that while he was in jail, Kochriavi admitted to police informants that he was the murderer. Four months later, however, the evidence against him began to crumble.

Jerusalem District Court Judge David Mintz said that the jailhouse informants forced the confession out of Kochriavi. Mintz said that even if he actually made the confession, it was out of fear of the informants, who allegedly swore at Kochriavi incessantly and threatened him.

Kochriavi said he was told if he did not confess, his prison conditions would worsen. Mintz said the two informants also had a financial incentive to extract a confession because police had promised them a cash reward for obtaining the admission.

The judge also said the defendant's statements were unfairly taken out of context, for example, when Kochriavi allegedly said "I didn't want to kill him." The judge said the comment can be interpreted in ways other than as a confession.