Belarusian prosecutor's office: Searches, interrogations and beating of independent journalists are legal

2010 2010-04-22T18:12:10+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

not violations of the law.

In the investigation of the defamation against former head of KGB directorate of Homel region Ivan Korzh, there were no violations of the law found, and there are no grounds for taking measures of reaction by the prosecutor. That was a conclusion of the prosecutor's office of Homel region, having considered the motion of the public association the Belarsuain Association of Journalists related to searches and interrogations of a number of journalists.

"As of 15 April 2010 there was no final decision in this criminal case," the press-service of the BAJ informs about the contents of the letter signed by the deputy prosecutor of the region.

We remind that in early March the BAJ sent a open letter to the Prosecutor General of Belarus Ryhor Vasilevich.

In its letter the organisation expressed an opinion that investigative action had been sanctioned by the prosecutor without grounds, and that the declared aims of searches did not reflect reality.

Actions of the prosecutors were called by the BAJ "drastic interference in journalistic activities' freedom". The organisation called upon the prosecutor to take measures immediately and return propetry seized from journalists, which is needed by them for their professional activities, and to take measures of prosecutor's reaction "for re-establishing lawfulness, giving back the seized property and defence of right and legal interests of journalists".

The office of Prosecutor General forwarded the appeal to the prosecutor's office of Homel region to prosecutor Valyantsin Shaeu, the one who had initated searches at some journalists' places (in particular, at Maryna Koktysh's place), to be considered " meaningfully" .

It should be noted that investigative actions against journalists are carried out in the framework of investigation of the criminal case initiated by the prosecutor's office of Homel region on December 31, 2009 under Part 2 of Article 188 of the Criminal Code for "defamation" against former head of te KGB directorate of Homel region Ivan Korzh which apperaed on the web.

The articles were about the so-called "hunters' case" in which the KGB disclosed abuse of power by police head offciers of Homel region. In the controversial articles relatives of the detained policmen expressed their opinion saying that "hunters' case" had been falsified, and KGB offciers were also guilty of abuses. At the moment law-enforcing agencies are looking for authors of these articles.

In late February-early March police interrogated journalists Maryna Koktysh and Iryna Khalip as witnesses in this case. Besides, police carried out a search at the working place of Maryna Koktysh, and searched the house of Svyatlana Kalinkina. Computers and other data carriers were seized from the two women.

Computers were also seized from Iryna KHalip and her husband, the leader of the civil campaign "European Belarus" Andrei Sannikov, when they were crossing Belarusian-Lithuanian border on March 5.

On March 9 police interrogated Zmitser Bandarenka, "European Belarus" coordinator, as a witness in the same case.

We remind that on March 16 law enforcers serached the news office of website, the private flat of Iryna Khalip, the working place of Svyatlana Kalinkina, the private flat of Maryna Koktysh, and in the private flat of Charter'97 website editor-in-chief Natallya Radzina.

Computers and other data carriers (CDs, USB sticks, photo flash cards) of the journalists were seized. Searches were held by policemen in mufti, some of them had masks on. They entered the news office of website with the use of force, and journalist Natallya Radzina was physically injured, she was punched in the face.

On March 26 Maryna Koktysh and Svyatlana Kalinkina were questioned in the police department of Savetski district as witnesses. On April 2 Natallya Radzina was interrogated, and on April 8 a well-known journalist Pavel Sharamet (Sheremet) was interrogated in the same case in Moscow.