Another suspect in ‘arson cases’ released from jail
On 6 October the human rights activist Barys Ashchepkau was released from the Minsk pre-trial prison.
Barys was detained by the police at 7 a.m. on 1 October. Officers of the organized crime department rang on his door. He refused to open the door to them, after which they broke it. The policemen searched his apartment and then took him to the police department. There Mr. Ashchepkau was informed that he was suspected in participation in the action of protest against the Belarusian-Russian military training West 2009 that had been held near the General Staff of the Ministry of Defense on 19 September 2009 (somebody had thrown a smoke bomb to the territory of the General Staff during the action).
Though Barys refused having taken part in this action, he wasn’t released. After three days of detention he was informed that he was suspected in the assault on the delinquents’ isolation center in Akrestsin Street and was detained for another three-day term.
Why did the police turn their attention to him?
B. Ashchepkau: I used to maintain active contacts with the parents of the youngsters who were detained, helped them in finding counsels, establishing contacts with the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and the Human Rights Center Viasna. It seems that they decided to follow all contacts and check all who could be involved.
Correspondent: What do you think, is the investigation conducted competently?
B. Ashchepkau: If they detain everyone who knew the detainees or their parents, the investigation will last for a very long time. Secondly, a great number of innocent people will suffer as a result. There have been many such cases already. More than 20 people were interrogated and/or detained.
Barys Ashchepau spent six days behind bars. He says that the investigators could have conducted the interrogations without imprisonment. They stated that they had enough evidence of his guilt right away, but didn’t mention anything concrete.
Correspondent: How were you treated by the investigators?
B. Ashchepkau: Officers of the organized crime department behaved like villains. They didn’t let me use the lavatory (which can be considered as a torture) till I almost stopped talking to them. They also tried to intimidate me, stating they cold qualify these arsons as terrorism, as a result of which I could be sentenced to 10-25 years in jail. The investigators of the Tsentralny and the Maskouski police department, behaved alright, I have no pretensions to them.
Barys Ashchepkau still has the status of a suspect. He signed the undertaking to come to the investigative agencies on the first call. However, he things that this case has no juridical perspectives.
Bear in mind that several tens of youth activists were detained by the Minsk police on suspicion within the guidelines of the criminal cases concerning the assaults on buildings. Among the detainees there are members of anarchist movement, ecologists who protest against the construction of the nuclear power plant, activists of Right Aliance and the unregistered Belarusian Freedom Party.
Two persons have spent more than a month in detention already: Mikalai Dziadok, who is suspected in robbing passers-by, and Aliaksandr Frantskevich – suspected in an assault on the Salihorsk pre-trial prison. Neither of them pleads guilty.