Concise analytical review of the trial of Zmitser Dashkevich and Eduard Lobau: Concluding Part
On 23 March, Minsk Maskouski District Court continued hearing the malicious hooliganism case of Zmitser Dashkevich and Eduard Lobau.
The court session was opened by the examination of witness Mrs. Sviatlana Harbachova, employee of the Ministry of Emergency Situations. She said that she had seen a fight of 6-7 persons, with three people lying on the ground and two other persons pressing them down with an arm-lock. There was another person nearby with a mobile phone. She did not see any blood on their faces. Nor could she identify them. After that the record of the preliminary investigation was read out, as there were divergences in Mrs. Harabachova’s testimony. According to the record, she neither saw the fight, nor any objects in the persons’ hands.
The following witness Ihar Karabyl said that he had seen someone holding another person down with an arm-lock and hitting the latter in the head for a couple of times. The witness approached them and suggested calling for the police. However, Malyshau said the police had already been called for. The witness saw Lazar lying on the ground and someone (Savitski) walking away with a crow-bar in his hand. Due to certain divergences, Karabyl’s preliminary interrogation record was also read out. According to the record, Karabyl saw Lobau hit Savitski with a crow-bar. However, during the court hearing he said that the investigator had confused his testimony.
Another witness policeman Andrei Tozik, born 1970, who said that on 18 December he, together with Zinkevich, was on a walking patrol, when they received information about a fight outside 24 Yanka Bryl Street. He reportedly saw Lobau and Savitski on the ground, however, he could not explain who beat who and started separating them. He also detained Lobau, whose conduct was reportedly calm.
Policeman Ihar Zinkevich said that he had seen three people on the ground, one of them was Dashkevich, being held by a youth. The latter said that he had been hit by Dashkevich. Therefore, Zinkevich handcuffed him and took him to the car. Just like the previous witnesses, Zinkevich said that he had not known about Dashkevich’s political activity.
The last witness Dzianis Lazar, detained together with Dashkevich and Lobau, but released 10 days later. Lazar said that they had been going by bus when they saw a suspicious young man and got off. Then they saw a group of 4 persons, two of them came up to them to ask for a light and to inquire about the address of the house they were standing by. Suddenly, one of them (Malyshau) hit Dashkevich in the belly, making him bend. He also saw Savistki attack Lobau. Then someone kicked him in the leg and he fell down. Then someone drew a hat upon his eyes and he could not see anything. Five minutes later the police appeared and detained him. After that they were taken to the police station and separated. There, Lazar explained that it were them who had been attacked. However, his claims were ignored.
After that, the Judge proceeded to the examination of the case file. Counsel Siameshka stressed that Savitski’s statement lacked his contact data, that the medical examination had been untimely, inaccurate and only confirmed soft tissue injuries, not the dissection he and the police witnesses had mentioned.
It is significant that Lobau did not undergo a medical examination, although he applied for it. The defense lawyers then entered a motion for an expert examination of the blood found on the cotton pellets and another motion for providing data on the incident area by mobile operators, after it became known that Harbachova’s phone number was not registered by the police phone service. However, the motions were rejected after their objection by the prosecutor.
In his speech, prosecutor Mazouka argues that the defendants’ guilt had been established. He also criticized the testimonies by non-police witnesses and the claims on politically motivated harassment of Lobau and Dashkevich. The prosecutor demanded 3 years for Zmitser Dashkevich and 5 years of imprisonment in a high-security colony for Lobau.
In their short speeches, the victims Savitski and Malyshau supported the prosecutor.
Mariana Siameshka emphasized that the charges had not been properly verified during the trial. She concluded that the materials presented during the hearing suggested that Dashkevich and Lobau’s guilt was not proven. The counsel mentioned a number of procedural violations during the investigation, which deprived the defendants of crucial evidence, e.g. there were abuses in the record of seizure and the medical examination. Besides, she said that the alleged victims should not have been hidden from the rest of the persons involved in the case. She also said that it seemed rather strange that poorly educated persons provided identical testimonies in a legally correct language. The counsel requested to approach the witnesses’ testimonies from a critical standpoint, since they had not seen the battery proper (except for Lazar). Considering this, Mrs. Siameshka demanded to declare Zmitser Dashkevich not guilty.
In her pleading, Lobau’s counsel Mrs. Alena Ausiannikava reminded that guilt should be proven by conclusive evidence and cannot be based on beliefs. She said that there was no evidence that proved the conclusiveness of the defendants’ guilt. She also argued that the defendants were no equal in their rights, as none of the defense’s motions was granted by the Judge. Mrs. Ausiannikava stressed that a judgment could not be based on doubts, which should be treated in favour of the defendants. She said that Lobau’s guilt had not been established and demanded to acquit him, saying that he had repeatedly declared that he was one of the actual victims. The lawyer also insisted that there were divergences in the testimonies provided by all the witnesses and the victims, therefore they should be treated critically. Finally, she stressed that her client had been denied the right to undergo a medical examination.
The court proceeded to the defendants’ last pleas.
On 24 March, Judge Alena Shylko pronounced the verdict: Zmister Dashkevich – 2 years of prison and Eduard Lobau – 4 years of imprisonment in a high-security colony.
Following the conclusions of the first day, it should be noted that the court had failed to take all measures possible to secure a full, thorough and unbiased investigation into the case, which casts doubt upon the justice of the verdict. There is no conclusive evidence of Dashkevich and Lobau’s guilt in the case file.