Statement of Human Rights Defenders on Autukhovich's case
On 6 May 2010, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus issued a verdict on the criminal case against Mikalai Autukhovich, Uladzimir Asipenka, Mikhail Kazlou and Aliaksandr Laryn.
Mikalai Autukhovich was charged with crimes under Article 18 and Article 218, part 3 of the Criminal Code – 'deliberate destruction or anientisement, Article 295, part 4 of the Criminal Code – unlawful operations with firearms, ammunition and explosives, and Article 13 and Article 359 of the Criminal Code – preparation to terrorist act;
Uladzimir Asipenka and Aliaksandr Laryn were charged under Article 16, part 3, Article 218, part 2, Article 295, parts 3 and 4, Article 13 and Article 359 of the Criminal Code;
Mikhail Kazlou was charged under Article 425, part 2 of the Criminal Code – inaction of a duty official.
The accused spent a considerable time in custody before the trial (more than 12 months). At the trial, Mikalai Autukhovich, Uladzimir Asipenka and Aliaksandr Laryn were acquitted of deliberate destruction of property and preparation to terrorist act.
As it follows from the verdict, Mikalai Autukhovich, Uladzimir Asipenka and Aliaksandr Laryn were convicted under Article 295, part 3 of the Criminal Code – unlawful operations with firearms, ammunition and explosives, and Mikhail Kazlou – under Article 425 – inaction of a duty official, and got 5, 3, 3 and 2 years of imprisonment respectively.
The investigation of this criminal case that has received a large publicity in Belarus was closed from the very beginning. The lawyers of the accused were banned to disclose any information about the investigation under the threat of criminal responsibility.
The trial at the Supreme Court was open, which allowed representatives of the Belarusian and world community, mass media and human rights organizations watch its pace. As a result of the monitoring of the trial, the Human Rights Center Viasna and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee came to the following conclusions.
Serious violations of the process guarantees were committed during the preliminary investigation, including the right to legal defense. In particular, the accused A.Laryn was actually deprived of the right to legal defense on the stage of preliminary investigation. As a result of interrogations and other process actions that had been conducted without participation of a counsel, he had given the testimonies that were later used against him and other accused: M.Autukhovich, U.Asipenka and M.Kazlou.
The investigation evidently used such means as keeping in custody as suspects for pressurizing the witnesses. Having given the testimonies that were necessary for the investigation, the detainees were released, received the status of witnesses and were no longer subject to criminal prosecution. All in all, more than 10 people were arrested within the frames of this case. As a rule, they were interrogated in absence of counsels.
Witness Liavonau spent 6 months behind bars.
These facts can be considered as abuses from the side of the investigative organs and arbitrary detentions.
During the trial, the majority of witnesses alleged having been subject to physical and psychical pressurization by the investigation. A considerable number of witnesses refuted the accusative testimonies they had given during the investigation.
In connection with the aforementioned fact, the evidence acquired in such circumstances mustn't have any legal force and cannot serve as the substance of an accusative verdict.
The counsels repeatedly stated during the trial that they had been limited by the investigation in the possibility to gather evidence and many of their solicitations had been dismissed by the investigation. Some of the motions of the defense that were important for an objective trial were also rejected by the court, which witnesses the accusative nature of the trial and violates the principles of objectiveness and impartialness of court.
The case was considered by the Supreme Court as the court of the first instance, by which the accused were deprived of the right to appeal the sentence, as far as according to the Criminal Process Code verdicts of the Supreme Court are enforced after the announcement. It is a significant violation of access to justice, contradicts to Article 115 of the Constitution of Belarus and Articles 2 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The analysis of the evidence received and studied at the trial, gives no grounds to consider it as sufficient for an accusative verdict.
According to information of the investigator, the case is controlled by the President of the Republic of Belarus.
In such circumstances, the accusative verdict and imprisonment of the convicts are a result of legal proceedings that took place with evident violations of the process guarantees, which is connected with the political motives of the authorities and falls under the definition of the term 'political prisoners', given by experts of the Council of Europe (according to document of the Council of Europe SG\Inf(2001) 34\24 October 2001).
We demand that the General Prosecutor of the Republic of Belarus and the Chairperson of the Supreme Court hold a check-up of the legality and validity of the verdict issued, discharge the convicts and draw to the legal account the duty officials who committed gross violations of the criminal process legislation during the preliminary investigation.
The Republican Human Rights Association Belarusian Helsinki Committee
The Human Rights Center Viasna