viasna on patreon

Trial against Viasna leadership: Day 1

2023 2023-01-05T18:50:09+0300 2023-01-06T14:25:35+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

The trial against Viasna human rights defenders including Nobel peace prize laureate Ales Bialiatski commenced today, January 5, in the Lieninski District Court of Minsk. Defendants are facing 7 to 12 years of imprisonment. The trial is open to the public, and Viasna is following the process.

Viasna members go on trial

Four human rights defenders are being tried: the Viasna chairman and Nobel Peace prize laureate Ales Bialiatski, his deputy Valiantsin Stefanovich, and the Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections campaign coordinator Uladzimir Labkovich are in the dock while Zmitser Salauyou, who had to leave Belarus, will be tried in absentia. They are charged with “smuggling by an organized group” under Part 4 Article 228 of the Criminal Code and “financing of group actions grossly violating the public order” under Part 2 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code.

The defendants are handcuffed and caged. Propagandists and relatives were allowed to attend the trial. About 10 people including foreign diplomats were denied entrance.

Ales Bialiatski, Uladzimir Labkovich, and Valiantsin Stefanovic filed motions to conduct the trial in the Belarusian language and to remove the handcuffs, as they degrade their dignity. The first petition was not granted by the judge, and the second was not even considered. Rights advocates continue to communicate in the Belarusian language in the courtroom.

Viasna members on trial on January 5.
Viasna members are held handcuffed in a metal cage in the courtroom.

Ales Bialiatski stated that he did not have enough time to get acquainted with all of the case files. It consists of 283 volumes of 300 pages each, which is a record for a “political” case in Belarus. The court stated that one month was enough to get acquainted with the case materials and that there were no grounds for giving him more time. 

There are about 100 witnesses in the case, and 120 searches were conducted across the country. The interests of Zmitser Salauyou are represented by a court-appointed lawyer. Ales Bialiatski expressed his distrust in Judge Maryna Zapasnik and challenged her. Valiantsin Stefanovic supported him. As expected, the motion was rejected.

Attorneys of Bialiatski and Stefanovic petitioned for a change in their preventive measure to a non-custodial one. Judge did not grant the petition.

Prosecutor Karol read out the indictment to the human rights activists. Bialiatski, Stefanovic, and Labkovich pleaded not guilty.

During the trial, the witnesses will be questioned first, then the written materials of the case will be examined, and if necessary, the physical evidence, and finally the human rights defenders themselves will be questioned.

The court is adjourned until tomorrow, January 6, 10:30 a.m.


Latest news