Yury Lyavonau: “Businessmen, don’t be silent! They won’t let you be!”

2009 2009-08-20T18:11:33+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en http://spring96.org/files/images/sources/pravasuddze.jpg The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Businessman Yury Lyavonau held his first press conference after the release from the Minsk pre-trial detention center.

Yury Lyavonau couldn’t comment on instigating new criminal cases against him and his colleagues at the today’s press conference, because he had signed a non-disclosure agreement. Nevertheless, he called all accusations “absurd” and “ungrounded”.

He connects the change of the measure of restraint with the increased attention of the mass media, embassies of the European Union and the US to the case of entrepreneurs. “No doubts, it has played its role, because the investigation hasn’t become more liberal,” Lyavonau noted.

The political prisoner reminded the events that had led to criminal prosecution of the Vaukavysk businessmen.

“The judicial system and investigative bodies of the law enforcement agencies of Belarus fail to comply with the norms of the international law; they are not independent, don’t defend common people. There are two norms in the legislation – assumption of innocence and judge's belief. But these norms don’t act. How did our prosecution begin? It began with Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s decree #4 on restriction of the number people employed by an individual entrepreneur. The decree came in force in May 2003.

About 60 employees used to work for Mikalai Autukhovich’s firm. We faced the question “What should we do?” we analyzed the decree and came to a conclusion that we could continue our activity but not fulfil the item of the decree on necessary creation of a commercial enterprise on a base of the individual entrepreneur. I was a director of Nika-Trans firm dealing with cargo transportation. We signed a contract on rending services on driving. About 60 people, working for the individual entrepreneur, were dismissed and employed by Nika-Trans company in a legal way. Thus, they began to work for me. From a legal point of view, this model, later called “grey” by minister of levies and taxes Sumar, is not grey. It didn’t contradict the law in 2003, and other people in Belarus used it. But they had claims only to us. The firm met a storm of audits, trials, then we were arrested.

Why? Because Mikalai Autukhovich is a really brave strong-willed man able to make decisions, defend them and struggle for them. So we have been doing since 2003. We defend our rights,” Yury Lyavonau noted.

Being a person who started his business in Belarus, lost it two times and was thrown into prison two times, he addressed other Belarusian businessmen. Moreover, it is topical today taking into account frequent cases of arrests of entrepreneurs.

“I’d like to tell the Belarusian businessmen –don’t be silent. The problems you have mustn’t be hushed up. We shouldn’t hope that they will let us be if we are silent today. They won’t. We must tell about our problems, we must unite, must struggle,” Yury Lyavonau told.

In Lyavonau’s view, the Belarusian business must support the Belarusian democratic opposition.

Commenting on the arrest of the Vaukavysk entrepreneurs, co-head of the organizing committee on creation of the Association of Afghan War Veterans “Defenders of Motherland” Alyaksandr Kamarouski said:

“The arrest of Autukhovich, Lyavonau, and Asipenka is the schizophrenia of the authorities, an element of intimidation of society to demonstrate how the “enemies of people” can be punished. In my view, the Belarusian secret services can be excused, they perform orders, like killers in Russia in the 1990ies. This outrage takes place against the background of the aggravating economic situation in the country. Do we need this confrontation in society?” Kamarouski said.

We demand international investigation of the cases of Mikalai Autukhovich, Yury Lyavonau, and Uladzimir Asipenka. If they really committed crimes, they must stand open trials. If the case is fabricated, then the authorities must be tried.

These people were arrested for nothing, killers of Yury Zakharanka and Viktar Hanchar, potential presidential candidates, haven’t been found during 10 years. Can you imagine such things, for example, in the United States? They will keep everyone on toes and find the killers. But in our country nobody took responsibility,” Kamarouski said.

It has become known today Belarusian human rights activists are going to address the international community calling to carry out independent international investigation of the cases of arrested entrepreneurs from Vaukavysk Mikalai Autukhovich, Yury Lyavonau, and Uladzimir Asipenka and call on the Belarusian authorities to release all political prisoners, including “Young Front” activist Artsyom Dubski.

The appropriate statement will be sent to US President Barack Obama, current President of the European Union Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, president of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev.

The address says the arrests and detention of Autukhovich, Lyavonau, Asipenka, and Dubski are politically motivated.

We remind that Yury Lyavonau was arrested on February 8 in Vaukavysk together with entrepreneurs Mikalai Autukhovich and Uladzimir Asipenka. On February 18, the entrepreneurs were charged under article 218 of the Criminal Code (intentional damage to or destruction of property of citizens). On June 23, a criminal case under article 359 of the Criminal Code (a terroristic act) in the form of preparation (article 13) was instigated against Autukhovich and “other persons”, the Ministry of Internal Affairs reported.

Lyavonau was released on August 8. Investigative activity against him was stopped. The Vaukavysk entrepreneurs are expected to stand trial in November.

Human rights activists consider the detained to be political prisoners drawing attention to the fact that Autukhovich and Lyavonau were convicted before and recognized prisoners of conscience by the international community.