“Relevant authorities” to decide on Ales Bialiatski’s book
On January 29, the Court of Ashmiany District held a preliminary hearing of human rights defender Tatsiana Reviaka’s lawsuit against local customs officials, who prohibited the importation of Ales Bialiatski’s book "Asvechanyia Belaruschunai" ("Enlightened by Belarusianness").
The case is considered by Judge Tatsiana Yemelianovich, the customs authority is represented by Tamara Hlinkevich and Alena Zhdanovich. Lawyer Pavel Sapelka was allowed to attend the trial as a representative of Tatsiana Reviaka.
As reported by Tatsiana Reviaka, at today's meeting, they requested access to certain documents, in particular the results of a re-examination of the edition, since it became the basis for Ashmiany customs’ decision to order re-export of the book to Lithuania.
The first expert examination was criticized by the human rights defenders in their repeated complaints submitted to the customs authorities. The key claim dealt with the fact that the book was not evaluated by the person appointed by Ashmiany customs, which is a flagrant violation of the law. When and who conducted the latest examination ordered at the request of the human rights defenders remains unknown to this day, as the customs officers did not provide information about this, including details on the contents of the probe. They only reported a need to export the book from the territory of Belarus.
According to Tatsiana Reviaka, today she learned that the re-examination was conducted from November 20 to December 9, 2013.
“We did not learn any new facts. The main contents of the new examination repeats the old one. With all the mistakes and violations which we have pointed out in our complaints. The only new thing is one more question to decide by the experts. Earlier, the customs authority requested to investigate the book’s alleged calls for or propaganda of extremism and information that might be of political or economic damage to Belarus, its national safety, health and morals of the citizens. Now, there is a question about terrorism. But no extremism or terrorism was found in the book in a repeated attempt,” says the human rights defender.
However, the examination was carried out by the same "experts", employees of Hrodna University Uladzimir Yahorychau and Vadzim Khiliuta. The human rights activists are outraged by the fact that it is still unknown on what basis the composition of the "expert" commission remained unchanged. Pavel Sapelka says during the preliminary hearing it became clear that no statutory decision to identify the experts was issued.
“The results of the examination only mention a letter from Ashmiany customs, which identified the same professors Uladzimir Yahorychau and Vadzim Khiliuta. But we do not know anything for sure, because a copy of this letter was not provided to the court,” said the lawyer.
The "experts" gave an interesting answer in their conclusion. They say these issues were addressed in their previous examination, but an unambiguous conclusion can only be arrived at during the examination by the “relevant authorities”.
The next hearing scheduled for February 10 is expected to disclose the name of these “relevant authorities”.
40 copies of the book were confiscated from human rights defender Tatsiana Reviaka on the Belarusian-Lithuanian border on July 3 last year. Ashmyany Customs sent the book for examination to find whether the book featured calls for extremist activities or might damage the state’ national safety, as well as health or morals of the citizens of Belarus. Between 24 and 30 July, an illegally appointed commission of two teachers of Hrodna State University conducted the examination, the results of which argued that the book "could damage the image of the Republic of Belarus." A later examination forced the customs authority to outlaw the books in Belarus, after which the human rights activists filed a complaint in court.