Human rights activist Leanid Svetsik sentenced to huge fine

2009 2009-07-16T18:19:38+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Judge of Vitsebsk regional court found the human rights activist guilty of stirring up religious and ethnic discord.

Leanid Svetsik must pay a fine of 31 mln Br ($10,890).

In his turn, as Radio Svaboda notes, the human rights activist strongly objects the verdict and believes he had been convicted illegally.

In 2006–2007, Leanid Svetsik was rendering legal aid to Vitsebsk activists, who received letters with threats on behalf of unregistered pro-Nazi organization Russian National Unity, was helping to prepare complaints to prosecutors. A criminal case over fact of threats from RNU was instigated only on May 20 last year. Leanid Svetsik was mentioned as a witness in the case, but later he was said he was a suspect person under article 130.1. The criminal case against him was suspended in September.

On March 31, 2009, he was charged under two articles of the Criminal Code: stirring up national or religious hatred (article 130) and libel against the president of Belarus (article 367). The human rights activist was given a written pledge not to leave town. Leanid Svetsik doesn’t admit his guilt and think the criminal case is revenge for his human rights activity. The criminal case files are comprised in 11 volumes.

Prosecutor Syarhei Selikhanau asked to sentence the human rights activist to 2 years of standard regime penal colony.

On July 16 the court found that Leanid Svetsik allegedly had been personally involved in writing and disseminating these letters. According to conclusions of judge Urbanovich, in this way Svetsik was settling personal scores.

Opposition activists, who appear as wronged persons in the case of “RNU letters”, have stated that they do not believe that Svetsik is guilty. They think that the human rights activist who demanded to find those responsible for sending letters with threats to them and other well-known people in 2006-2007, is intentionally charged with stirring up ethnic discord in order to discredit the human rights defense movement as a whole.

Svetsik’s lawyer, Paval Sapelka, called the case against his client “an awful provocation”. In his speech he noted violations during preliminary investigation and the trial. He also offered Judge Halina Urbanovich to acquit the human rights activist, as his guilt hadn’t been proved by the court.

In early April the international foundation for the protection of human rights defenders “Front Line” sent a letter to Alyaksandr Lukashenka with a demand to stop criminal prosecution against the human rights activist Leanid Svetsik.