Monitoring of Criminal Cases That Have Been Recently Brought against Public and Political Activists in Belarus: 1 Person Sentenced to 5 Months of Arrest, 21 -- under investigation, 8 in Jail
This monitoring contains information about the criminal cases that were brought for political motives during the presidential electoral campaign in Belarus in 2006. The electoral campaign is defined by a rapid growth of the number of criminal cases against activists of civil society, oppositional parties and non-governmental organizations.
On 16 December 2005 the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus appointed the presidential election on 19 March 2006. The day before, on 15 December, the Chamber of Representatives almost unanimously adopted the law of the Republic of Belarus On introduction of amendments to some legal acts of the Republic of Belarus with the aim to increase punishment for actions against individuals and public security. These amendments included article 193 (organization or directing of the activity of public association or religious organization that attempts on the individuality, rights and duties of citizens), article 193.1 (illegal organization of activity of public association, religious organization or fund or participation in their activity) and article 369.1 (discrediting of the Republic of Belarus).
These amendments were enforced on 1 January 2006 and the month after the first criminal case on one of the new articles was brought. The enforcement of the mentioned articles is a matter of grave concern for members of human rights organizations of Belarus. These articles violate the fundamental civil rights - the right to association, liberty of expression, the freedom of opinion and convictions. They contradict to the main international pacts on human rights that were ratified by the Republic of Belarus - the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convent on Civil and Political Rights.
It's worth mentioning that the authorities also actively use other articles of the Criminal Code for political purposes. It especially concerns youth activists. Often political graffiti were considered as hooliganism or malignant hooliganism. This gave the opportunity to detain the activists before trial and present them as petty criminals that have nothing to do with political activity.
The growth of the number of the politically motivated criminal cases witnesses the enforcement of the political repressions in the country on the eve of the presidential election.
Starting from December 2005 politically-motivated criminal cases were brought against 20 public and political activists. One of them was sentenced to 5 months of jail, 8 are kept in custody and haven't been tried yet.
1. Criminal case against Aliaksandr Kazakou and Dzmitry Zubro
The activists of the Zubr movement Aliaksandr Kazakou and Dzmitry Zubro were detained on 28 December 2005 for political graffiti (number 16 to call people to take part in the Day of Solidarity with political prisoners and families of the missing activists). The youngsters were kept for more than two days in the isolator of preliminary detention and were released on written undertaking not to leave the city. They are accused of violation of part 2 of article 363 of the Criminal Code (resistance to the police) and can be punished by up to five years of personal restraint or jail. The case has been passed to Minsk Tsentralny Borough Court and the legal proceedings have already started.
2. Criminal case against Pavel Krasouski
In the city of Zhodzina the case for violation of article 369 of the Criminal Code (public insult of duty officials) was brought against the youth activist Pavel Krasouski, member of the initiative group of Aliaksandr Milinkevich. The case was brought for publication of satirical charges of the city's authorities in the bulletin Naziralnik that was edited by Pavel Krasouski. These charges were also found during the search of his flat in December 2005.
At present Mr Krasouski is a suspect on the case and hasn't received official charges yet. Article 369 of the CC provides corrective fine, up to two years of corrective labor, up to six months of arrest or up to three years of personal restraint as punishment.
3. Criminal cases against Dzmitry Kaspiarovich
The activist of the BPF Party Dzmitry Kaspiarovich was detained at night between 17 and 18 December 2006 on suspicion in the outrage of the state symbols. According to Mr Kaspiarovich, he really climbed the roof of Minsk City Executive Commitete and tried to remove the official flag, because he considers it Stalinist. The outrage of state symbols (article 370 of the CC) doesn't provide imprisonment (the maximal punishment is 1 year of personal restraint). Besides, the persons accused on this article can't be kept in custody before trial. However, Mr Kaspiarovich was accused of violation of part 1 of article 339 of the CC (hooliganism), according to which he could be sentenced to up to three years of jail. That's why he was also detained before the trial.
On 27 February Minsk Maskouski Borough Court sentenced Dzmitry Kaspiarovich to five months of jail. The activist didn't take the blame and said he was ready to bear responsibility for outrage of the state symbols, not for hooliganism. He explained that he was well-bred and has never been a hooligan.
The trial was attended by the chair of the BPF Party Vintsuk Viachorka. He called the case against Dzmitry Kaspiarovich an example of double standards in the Belarusian court practice. He reminded that in 1995 the high state official Ivan Tsitsiankou tore the state white-red-white flag. ‘I think that the reaction of the authorities is disproportional to the violation, in the case it really took place. What is even more important, the country mustn't have double standards. I mean that in the case some people are allowed to tear the national flat was also the state flag in 1991-1995, put signatures on it and receive no punishment, what can we expect from the people who can't bear the present artificial state symbols', Mr Viachorka said.
The court verdict was appealed at the college board of criminal cases of Minsk City Court.
4. Criminal case against Artur Finkevich
At night of 30 January in Minsk the police detained the activist of the youth organization Young Front for political graffiti. The criminal case was brought on part 2 of article 339 of the CC (malignant hooliganism) and the official charges were given on the same article. Now he can be sentenced to up to 6 years of jail.
At present Artur Finkevich is kept in the investigative isolator. The fact that the investigative organs purposefully qualify political graffiti as hooliganism or malignant hooliganism is alarming. Such accusations allow for pre-trial detention and punishment with jail.
5. Criminal case against Uladzimir Khomichau and Maksim Kokarau
On 2 March it became known that Niasvizh District Board of Internal Affairs brought a criminal case on two activists of the Young Front for political graffiti. The case was brought on article 341 of the CC (defilement of buildings and corruption of property), that provides corrective labor, fine or up to three months of arrest as punishment. The case is on the stage of preliminary investigation. The youth activists were released under written undertakings not to leave Niasvizh.
6. Criminal cases against Siarhei Biazmen and Siarhei Lashkevich
On 2 March in Shchuchyn the police searched the flats of Vasil Biazmen and Siarhei Lashkevich, local activists of the headquarters of the candidate to the presidential position Aliaksandr Milinkevich. In both cases the police confiscated all information carriers, some printed editions and documents from personal archives. Siarhei Liashkevich was kept in the investigative isolator of Shchuchyn for several days. His mother, Iryna Liashkevich, was informed that her son was detained for 72 hours. According to the preliminary version of the investigation, he is suspected of preparation the mass actions that rudely violate the public order. The criminal case on part 3 of article 293 of the CC (mass riot) has been brought against him. However, the police don't tell which actions they qualify as mass riot. We should remind that according to the latest amendments to the Criminal Code part 3 of article 293 (training or other preparation of persons to participation in mass riot, or financing and other material provision of such activity) provides up to six months of arrest or up to 3 years of personal restraint as punishment.
7. Criminal cases against Aliaksandr Kazulin, candidate to the presidential position of the Republic of Belarus
These cases were mentioned in the appeal of the General Procurator's Office. One of them was brought in connection with the incident of 17 February, the day of registration of the candidates to the presidential position. That day Mr Milinkevich and his adherents burst into the National Press Center where his press-conference was appointed. ‘Kazulin and his companions insulted and used physical violence against the guards of the concert hall Minsk and a policeman', -- stated the procurator's office.
As a result, on 1 March there was brought a criminal case on part 2 of article 339 of the Criminal Code (malignant hooliganism) with Aliaksandr Kazulin as suspect. The maximal punishment is 6 years of jail.
The second case was brought in connection with Kazulin's behavior at the police station after his beating and detention on 2 March, when he with a group of adherents tried to pay a visit to the All-Belarusian People's Assembly that was organized by the authorities. At the police station he smashed a portrait of Aliaksandr Lukashenka. As a result a criminal case on part 1 of article 339 of the CC (hooliganism) was brought. The maximal punishment is 3 years of jail.
The cases are on the state of the preliminary investigation. The official charges haven't been given yet.
It's worth mentioning that on 2 March, during the attempt to register as a delegate to the so-called All-Belarusian Assembly Aliaksandr Kazulin was violently beaten by representatives of secret services and the commandant of a special police brigade Dzmitry Paulichenka. After the beating Mr Kazulin was detained and taken to Minsk Kastrychnitski Borough Board of Internal Affairs. Unknown persons shot in the car that followed the police car with Kazulin inside. Outside Minsk Kastrychnitski BBIA persons in plain clothes assaulted activists of Kazulin's electoral headquarters and journalists. Dozens of them received bodily injures. The correspondent of Komsomolskaya Pravda b Belarusi Aleh Uhlevich is still in hospital with broken nose.
8. Criminal case against Mikalai Astreika, Enira Branitskaia, Tsimafei Dranchuk and Aliaksandr Shalaika
On 2 March Mikalai Astreika, Enira Branitskaia, Tsimafei Dranchuk and Aliaksandr Shalaika received official charges on part 2 of article 193 of the CC (organization or direction of the activity of public association or religious organization that attempts on individuality, rights and obligations of citizens).
On 22 February these four members of the unregistered public initiative Partnership were detained on suspicion in directing organization that violated citizens' rights. KGB workers searched flats of the activists and confiscated all information carriers. Later the KGB chair Stsiapan Sukharenka called them coordinators of the provocations that were allegedly planned by the opposition during the street actions of 19 March. On 1 March at his press-conference Mr Sukharenka stated: ‘The blood of victims will let the organizers of the protest action do anything they like. After this they will start seizing the official offices, railway stations and blocking the railway with the aim to stop the country's functioning', he said. According to him, the detained members of Partnership were to have coordinated the provocations and the organization also prepared false minutes of the exit-polls, according to which the candidate to the presidential position Aliaksandr Milinkevich won the election. At present all four detainees are kept in the investigative isolator of KGB in Minsk.
9. Criminal case against Iauhen Suvorau
The criminal case against the activist of Zubr Iauhen Suvorau was brought on part 1 of article 435 of the CC (evasion from military service). Other activists of Zubr say it is only a pretext for barring their friend. It is also confirmed by the fact that the military commission found him unfit for military service in peaceful time long ago. The guy has never hid from the authorities and has always come to the military committee on its subpoena. He was often detained by the police for handing out printed materials, but even the policemen had no pretensions concerning the military service.
On 14 February 2006 he was detained in Mahiliou for hanging a large banner with the urge to take part in the Solidarity Day that is carried out on 16th day of each month in Belarus. He was accused of violation of article 156 of the Code of Administrative Violation (petty hooliganism), but this accusation was only the reason for keeping him in custody - the violation report wasn't passed to court. Now Mr Suvorau is kept in the investigative isolator of Mahiliou.
10. Criminal case against Anastasia Azarka
The criminal case was brought on 5 March 2006 by the Main Board of Internal Affairs of Minsk Regional Executive Committee on article 193.1 of the CC (illegal organization of activity of public association, religious organization or fund or participation in their activity). She is suspected in activity on behalf of the unregistered organization Young Front and participation in distribution of the printed materials with the ‘urges to fight against the present constitutional order and authorities'. The maximal punishment is 6 months of arrest or 2 years of personal restraint. The case is at the stage of preliminary investigation and no official charges have been given to Ms Azarka yet.
11. Criminal case against Iury Radzivil
Iury Radzivil, driver of the candidate to the presidential position Aliaksandr Kaaulin, was detained by persons in plain clothes on 2 March 2006. Before this a person in plain clothes shot in his car from a pistol. Iury Radzivil is suspected in resistance to the police and usage of force against them. The case was brought on part 2 of article 363 of the CC (resistance to a policeman or other person that guards the public order).
At present Mr Radzivil is kept in the investigative isolator of Minsk. Human rights activists of Belarus think that in such a way the authorities want to justify the lawless actions of the worker of law machinery who used firearms in peaceful times with no grounds.
12. Criminal case against Ivan Kruk
Ivan Kruk is an activist of the United Civil Party and the chair of Astravets district headquarters of the candidate to the presidential position Aliaksandr Milinkevich. On 3 February 2006 an investigator of Astravets District Procurator's Office brought a criminal case against him on part 2 of article 363 (resistance to a policeman or other person that guards the public order). According to the official accusation, Ivan Kruk used force against the police during the search of his flat. The search was conducted without legal grounds. The policemen paid interest to printed materials and information carriers. Mr Kruk smashed his computer not to let them confiscate it.
The case is at the stage of preliminary investigation.
13. Criminal case against the chair of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Tatsiana Protska
On 1 March 2006 the Department of financial investigation of the State Control Committee resumed the criminal case about evasion from taxes by the Belarusian Helsinki Committee. This information was disclosed by the investigator Aliaskandr Zaleuski. A suspect in the case is the BHC chair Tatsiana Protska who is suspected in non-payment of 70 000 US dollars of taxes. The case was brought on part 2 of article 243 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus (evasion from payment of dues and taxes) that provides 2-7 years of jail with confiscation of property as punishment. More than a year ago the tax inspection decided that BHC was to pay taxes for the financial aid it received on TACIS program of the European Union. The support on this program was given to Belarus on the condition of complete exemption from taxes. At first the Supreme Economic Court took the side of human rights activists, but in the beginning of 2006 annulled its decision. The human rights activists consider it as persecution for political reasons, including the attempts to organize independent monitoring of the presidential election.
14. Criminal case against Andrei Panasik
The criminal case against the public activist of the town of Masty Andrei Panasik was brought on 11 March 2006 on article 193.1 of the CC (illegal organization of the activity of public association, religious organization or fund or participation in it). He is suspected in participation in the activity of the unregistered public initiative Partnership. The article provides up to 6 months of jail or up to 2 years of personal restraint as punishment.
The case is at the stage of preliminary investigation. Mr Panasik hasn't received the official charges yet.
15. Criminal Case against Edvard Zeliankou
Homel Regional KGB Board brought a criminal case on suspicion in organization of the activity of unregistered public association and hooliganism against the activist of the Young Front Edvard Zeliankou, who is also a an active participant of the electoral measures of Aliaksandr Milinkevich’s campaign.