Valiantsin Stefanovich: ‘This trial is an attempt to discredit human rights movement’
The first day of the trial of Leanid Svetsik started with the ejection of the independent journalists who had covered the appearance of anonymous threat letters on behalf of ‘Vitsebsk branch of the Russian National Unity’ in which Svetsik is accused.
Several months ago the journalists were questioned as witnesses at Vitsebsk oblast KGB department and the judge Halina Urbanovich decided that they would be also summonsed to the trial as witnesses. The journalist Vadzim Barshcheuski entered a protest against it, as in such a way the court was restricting the journalists’ rights to professional activities. However, the protest was ignored.
Vitsebsk representative of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Pavel Levinau and the member of the Conservative-Christian Party BPF Siarhei Kavalenka were removed from the court hall on the same grounds. The latter has also received a threat letter from RNU, but refused from the status of victim. While leaving the court hall he raised a poster ‘KGB are fascists!
The representative of the human rights center Viasna Ales Bialiatski, who was present there, commented on it: ‘It is a courageous deed and it is quite symbolic that this poster was raised in the court hall, where the criminal proceedings, inspired by the KGB are going on. There were hundreds and thousands of such trials against human rights activists in the Soviet times.’
The lawyer of the human rights center Viasna Valiantsin Stefanovich believes that the criminal case and the trial of Leanid Svetsik are aimed at discrediting the human rights movement:
‘There is no worse accusation for a human rights defender than charges in fomentation of national enmity, racism and the like. That’s why I think that this case is aimed at discrediting and won’t be surprised if the Belarusian TV uses it to the full extent.’
Mr. Stefanovich also reminded how the state TV channels disgraced the Human Rights Center Viasna and turned his attention to the fact that a camera crew of the Belarusian TV was shooting the beginning of the trial of Leanid Svetsik.
Vitsebsk oppositionist Barys Khamaida, who has received two threat letters on behalf of RNU and appears in the case as a victim, stated impeachment to the judge Halina Urbanovich. He stated that he believed neither in the justice of the judges who were appointed by Alexander Lukashenka, nor in Leanid Svetsik’s being guilty.
‘I don’t believe that Svetsik has done it. I have the impression that he was ‘appointed’ to be the defendant in this process. We’ll see how the proceedings will go. The case has 11 volumes – look how much have they dug out!’
The judge defeated the impeachment. The trial will continue at 11 June in present of the representative of Vitsebsk oblast prosecutor’s office Siarhei Selivanau. The defendant pleads innocent.
‘Our position is that Svetsik must be justified, but it is too early to talk of any perspectives – the trial has just begun’, commented his lawyer Pavel Sapelka.
If the court finds the human rights defender guilty, according to Article 130, part 1 of the Criminal Code he can be punished with up to five years of imprisonment.