Elena Tonkacheva challenges her expulsion from Belarus (updated)
Today, January 8, the Pershamaiski District court of Minsk considers the appeal of human rights activist Elena Tonkacheva, Chair of the Center for Legal Transformation Lawtrend, who challenges the decision of the Pershamaiski District Police Department about her expulsion from Belarus.
The Human Rights Center "Viasna" monitors the trial of Elena Tonkacheva.
2.30 p.m. There are about 30 people in the court. The police put down their passport data, but there is clearly too little space for all comers.
2.37. The hearing begins. The judge asks to leave about ten people for whom there are no seats.
14-40. Judge Natallia Petukh asks the journalists to put their recorders in front of them in such a way as to make it clear that aren't making any video shots.
At trial, there are two representatives of the Department of Citizenship and Migration, the surname of one of them is Kryshtaliou.
2.48. The judge grants Tonkacheva's petition for admission of her lawyer to the hearing. Representatives of the Department of Citizenship and Migration don't make any petitions.
The lawyer solicits for participation in the hearing of witnesses - Irina Sukhiy, Enira Branitskaya and Volha Smalianka, who could confirm a direct connection of Elena Tonkacheva with Belarus.
2.55. At trial, there is also the mother of Elena Tonkacheva as the owner of the apartment. The court orders to submit the agreement for the maintenance of the apartment. The judge calls the audience to stop talking.
3.00. December 24 there was filed an appeal, as far as Elena Tonkacheva has a permanent place of work, place of residence, but the violation reports were considered without her, and she was punished as the owner of the vehicle, but not brought to administrative responsibility as a citizen.
However, the judge asked to provide information and arguments that could be taken into account by the court.
Tonkacheva has a daughter who studies at an university and owns an apartment together with her parents. She believes that the Department of Citizenship and Migration didn't fulfill their duties in good faith and refers to the Ruling of the Plenary Sitting of the Supreme, paragraphs 1 and 22, (inaction of state bodies). It can be concluded that the decision to expel was taken at the level of the Pershamaiski District DCM. At the same time, while taking the decision on Tonkacheva's expulsion, DCM needed to have at its disposal all the facts that would indicate a real threat to public order, as it was stated.
The only law in this case is the Code of Administrative Offenses, which describes violations of public order. Therefore, the extended meaning of public order, which goes beyond what is permitted by law, indicates that the decision was taken unlawfully. The arguments that all fines have been paid, and thus, the responsibility was incurred, were ignored by the court.
3.25. Elena Tonkacheva points at the connections between the legislation of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus in providing citizens equal rights and responsibilities.
She explains to the court what is meant by the country of residence under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
3.30. The materials of precedent similar cases dealt with in the United Nations Human Rights Committee are attached to the case.
3.42. Judge Petukh tries to steer the conversation to the topic of video registration of the speed violations and asks Elena Tonkacheva whether she had paid interested to this topic as a lawyer or was brought to administrative liability on October 14. "I do not remember," answers Tonkacheva.
“What are you trying to challenge?” asks the judge.
“My expulsion from the country,” says Tonkacheva and asks the court to take a decision commensurate with personal conviction.
3.55. A representative of the DCM dwells on the moment of deprivation of Elena Tonkacheva of her residence permit, saying that all citizens residing in the territory of the Republic of Belarus are checked up every six months and adds that Tonkacheva had been brought to administrative responsibility 8 times during the year.
4.05. Previously, Kastrychnitski DCM decided to annul her residence permit, but it wasn't annulled. However, the Pershamaiski DCM analyzed and discussed the situation, taking into account the earlier decision on expulsion, and took such a decision. If this were the first time, the chance is always given, especially to women. The judge removes from the room of a man who laughed at the words of the DCM representative.
The judge states that case materials include many appeals and applications in defense of Elena Tonkacheva, but not a single sentence that she realized the wrongfulness of her deeds and wouldn't violate the traffic rules in the future.
4.20. The lawyer says that there is no information about that Tonkacheva's actions caused danger to life and health of citizens or their property. The questioning of witnesses begins.
4.30. Witness Volha Smalianka positively characterizes Tonkacheva whom she has known for 20 years, says that she is a good lawyer, trusted by the people and employees of the organization headed by her. She presented his car for the needs of the organization under an agreement of free use.
4.35. In the organization there are three people with a driver's license, but the appropriate register contains no records about Tonkacheva's giving her car to another person. Tonkacheva answers the question of the DCM officer about the driving experience, saying it was ten years.
4.45. A duty instruction of the head of the Center for Legal Transformation Elena Tonkacheva is attached to the case. The court starts questioning the witness Siarhei Drazdouski. The witness says that he sometimes drives instead of Tonkacheva during joint trips outside Minsk. He describes her as a positive person who participates in the activities of the office on the work with people with disabilities.
4.55. Witness Enira Branitskaya has known the plaintiff for about 7 years. She believes that many facts were not taken into account when deciding on the expulsion of the human rights activist. Bronitskaya, who has initiated the electronic appeal to the Pershamaiski DPD started collecting signatures (about 8,000 have been collected so far), asks the court to take into account the public opinion. However, the police department hasn't responded to the public appeal. Moreover, there were written appeals, which were ignored too. The court asks the DCM officers to present correspondence on the citizens' appeals.
5.10. Testimony is given by Elena Tonkacheva's mother Halina. She reports that Elena's father, who lives in Russia, has written a letter with a detailed description of his attitude to this problem. It is reported that her parents planned to move to Minsk, that's why the apartment was registered as the mother's property, but was used by Elena. The parents don't have Belarusian residence permits.
5.25. Witness Irina Sukhiy has known Tonkacheva since the mid 1990s. She says that she has been seldom prosecuted for speeding herself, but there was a case when she has violated the traffic rules while driving Tonkacheva's car. However, she didn't go to the traffic police, but just paid the fine. Sukhiy also added that she had the power of attorney to drive the car. The organization "Ekodom" has also sent appeals requesting reversal of the decision on expulsion.
5.40. The judge says that the working hours of the court end at 6 p.m. and warned that there was enough time only for listening to two more witnesses.
5.45. Testimony is born by the direcctor of the Centre for European Transformation Andrei Yahorau. He has known Tonkacheva since 2005 as a human rights activist and speaks of the international reaction to Tonkacheva's case and its possible impact on the Belarus' image.
5.55. Tonkacheva asks to be familiarized with the reports on two violations of the traffic rules, whose dates she doesn't know.
Due to the end of the working hours, the hearing will continue at 11 a.m. tomorrow, on January 8. Elena Tonkacheva solicited for summoning to the trial an independent expert Eduard Kanapatski, specialist on the road safety. The petition was granted. A witness who may explain the essence of the publicly dangerous deed of Elena Tonkacheva and present the correspondence on people's appeals, is expected to appear at tomorrow's hearing.
December 24, the human rights activist filed an appeal to the Pershamaiski District Court of Minsk against the decision of the Pershamaiski District Police Department her expulsion from the country for three years for excess of speed limits while driving.
The same day, the the Pershamaiski DPD extended her residence permit for one months so that he could take part in the consideration of her appeal at court.
Let us remind that on November 5 the Pershamaiski DPD decided to expel the human rights activist from the country within a month. She was also banned from visiting the country in the next three years. November 28, the human rights activist appealed the decision to the Minsk City Executive Committee, as a result of which her temporary registration in Belarus was extended for 30 days. On December 12 the Main Police Departmen of Minsk dismissed the complaint.
The basis for the decision on her deportation became an insignificant violation of the speed limits by Tonkacheva's car recorded by police video cameras.
Though Elena Tonkacheva is a citizen of the Russian Federation, she has been living in Belarus for 30 years and has a home and work here.