Human rights defenders call on prosecutor general to release Vaukavysk entrepreneurs
Human rights defenders have appealed to the prosecutor general with the request to free three opponents of the government, Mikalai Autukhovich, Yury Liavonau and Uladzimir Asipenka, from custody.
In the appeal, Aleh Volchak and Alexander Kamarouski ask the prosecutor to examine the legality of the detention with the participation of international independent experts.
Messrs. Autukhovich, Liavonau and Asipenka were detained the morning of February 8 and brought to a detention center in Minsk. The police said that they were suspected of perpetrating a series of arsons and explosions targeting the property of local officials and of illegal possession of explosives and firearms.
They were formally charged with deliberate destruction of or damage to property caused in a way dangerous to the public or the intentional infliction of large-scale damage on 18 February.
Mr. Autukhovich has been on hunger strike since 16 April, protesting his detention and demanding that the case should be either referred to court or all those under investigation in the case should be released on their own recognizance.
Messrs. Volchak and Kamarouski urge the prosecutor general to replace the detention order regarding the three men with a non-custodial alternative.
“Mikalai Autukhovich has been hunger-striking in prison for 75 days in protest against his illegal detention,’ the appeal reads. ‘His strike has already crossed the threshold to direct threat to his life.
The life of Autukhovich is in danger today… His demands, like ours, are quite simple – the conduct of an open trial or the replacement of the pre-trial restriction on Autukhovich, Liavonau and Asipenka, if the investigators need more time. If they are placed under house arrest during which they may be banned from having contacts with other people or leaving their place and will be required to make calls, answer calls and be under electronic control, they will not be able to influence the investigation or witnesses, if exactly these matters are causing concern. But this may save Autukhovich’s life.’
Opposition politicians and human rights activists have condemned the prosecution of the dissidents as illegal and politically motivated.
Bear in mind that Autukhovich and Liavonau, former business partners, earlier served 18 months in prison for alleged tax evasion and illegal business activities. They were both granted an early release in January 2008.
Mr. Autukhovich insisted that he had been sent to prison because he had protested authorities’ arbitrary rule. Amnesty International declared him and Mr. Liavonau prisoners of conscience.
Mr. Autukhovich, who is a leader of a nascent association of veterans of Soviet wars abroad, was among civil society activists who petitioned the government in January to restore state benefits to the Afghanistan War’s veterans.