Economic Court of Minsk granted Narodnaia Volia's suit against Chyrvonaia zorka printers
On 17 November the Economic Court of Minsk found as insubstantial the grounds used to cancel the contract and ordered that the publication of the newspaper be resumed by this printing company. However, the Economic Court did not grant the suit filed by the Narodnaia Volia against Belsaiuzdruk and Minharsaiuzdruk regarding the restoration of the distribution contracts.
The senior editor of the Narodnaia Volia Iosif Siaredzich commented on the ruling by Neli Arlouskaia, judge of the Minsk Economic Court, which ordered that the Chyrvonaia zorka printers resume the printing of the Narodnaia Volia: “I did not expect something different to happen. There was no reason not to grant the suit. If the court had taken a different ruling, this would mean that our country does not have any courts at all. So, thanks to God, justice has been restored”.
Iosif Siaredzich later informed that he had already transferred 2 million rubles to the printers’ account so that the paper could resumed as soon as possible.
The deputy chair of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Hary Pahaniaila, the Narodnaia Volia's representative in court, referred to the court ruling as a legal and grounded one: “Belarus still has independent justice. There still exist professional judges who, importantly, have civil courage and are first of all guided by the law and their professional conscience.
At the same time the Economic Court of Minsk did not grant the suit by the Narodnaia Volia against Belsaiuzdruk. During the court proceedings, the president of this company, the former minister of information Mikhail Padhainy said that the contract had been unilaterally terminated on the basis of an additional agreement concluded with the Narodnaia Volia this year in January. Under the mentioned agreement, Belsaiuzdruk has the right to cancel the agreement unilaterally without any prior warning if the newspaper violates the Law on the Mass Media. Mikhail Padhainy quoted three warnings issued by the Ministry of Information to the Narodnaia Volia this year. However, Mikhail Padhainy was not able to produce the original of the additional agreement signed by both parties. He said it had been lost. The Belsaiuzdruk president told Radio Liberty he was prepared to take any ruling passed by the court: “I even do not see any reason for appealing against the ruling because, first of all, we are not a monopolist. Second, we function as a dispatch agency for the regional companies. If they do not place an order for an item and we do not want to have it ordered, who can make us do so? If the fish is rotten, whatever you do the shop will not take it. We are a trading company, we must take high quality goods".
The demands of the Narodnaia Volia regarding the resumed distribution of the newspaper in the capital via the Minharsaiuzdruk network were not granted by the Economic Court of Minsk, either. Iosif Siaredzich told Radio Liberty that he would appeal against these decision with higher courts.
The court hearing of the Minablsaiuzdruk case was transferred to Monday, 21 November, because the defendant's representative had become sick.
The court proceedings were attended by Aliaxandr Milinkievich, the united opposition candidate, by the former BSU rector Aliaxandr Kazulin, the leader of the Will of the People movement, and an OSCE representative. Also, about ten activists of the social democratic movement from Babruisk and students of Minsk universities came to the courtroom to support the newspaper.
Belsaiuzdruk, Minablsaiuzdruk, Minharsaiuzdruk and the printing company Chyrvonaia zorka unilaterally cancelled the contracts for printing and distributing the Narodnaia Volia, which took effect on 1 October. After that decision, the newspaper had to be printed abroad, in Russia, and distributed via subscription and free distribution. Last week Belposhta did not include the Narodnaia Volia into the subscription catalog for the first half-year in 2006. The independent periodical took the matter to court, requesting that Belposhta include it into the catalog. The date of the hearing of this case in court is yet to be appointed.