Viasna leaders remain in detention
Ales Bialiatski, chairman of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, Valiantsin Stefanovich, deputy chairman, and Uladzimir Labkovich remain in pre-trial detention in Minsk, nearly two weeks after they were detained together with eight other members of Viasna.
Most activists walked free within 72 hours, while Nina Labkovich was not released until July 23. All of them remain under travel restrictions, however.
The lawyers representing the Viasna leaders that are still in detention cannot share any details of the case. Yet, it is known that they are most likely facing charges under Parts 1 and 2 of Art. 342 (organization and financing of group actions that grossly violate public order) and Part 2 of Art. 243 of the Criminal Code (tax evasion). It were these offenses that the authorities used a pretext for the massive police raid on July 14.
The human rights defenders are suspected of involvement in the “shadow movement of significant funds, which primarily come from abroad, non-payment of taxes and funding of various types of protest activity of the population of Belarus”.
“In more detail, this refers to the gathering of persons in specific places for commission of group illegal actions, payment of the administrative penalties imposed for participation in illegal protests, organization and carrying out of seminars on questions of counteracting law enforcement agencies and so on,” the Investigative Committee said in a comment.
On July 23, the Partyzanski District Court of Minsk turned down a complaint by Valiantsin Stefanovich’s lawyer requesting the activist’s release.
The first attack on Viasna human rights activists took place on February 16, after the authorities opened a criminal case under Part 2 of Art. 342 of the Criminal Code (financing and material support of group actions that grossly violate public order). According to official comments from the Investigative Committee, Viasna allegedly provided funding and other material support for “illegal protests” that “grossly violated public order.”
Earlier, similar charges were used to imprison Viasna human rights defenders and volunteers Marfa Rabkova, Andrei Chapiuk, Leanid Sudalenka and Tatsiana Lasitsa. All of them were called political prisoners, as a result.