viasna on patreon

Five years of imprisonment in a high security colony and a huge fine: the verdict of human rights activist Leanid Sudalenka

2024 2024-06-19T10:15:00+0300 2024-06-19T12:09:14+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

On June 17, the trial in absentia of former political prisoner, lawyer, and human rights activist Leanid Sudalenka finished in the Homieĺ Regional Court. A new criminal case in the form of special proceedings was initiated in November 2023. Leanid was charged under Parts 1 and 2 of Articles 361-4 (assistance to extremist activities) of the Criminal Code.

The case was handled by judge Anatol Sotnikau.

Leanid Sudalenka, a well-known human rights activist and lawyer, was the head of the Homieĺ branch of Viasna Human Rights Center. After leaving Belarus, he immediately stated that he would direct his activities towards the early release of Belarusian political prisoners. 

The court found the human rights defender guilty and sentenced him under Part 1 of Article 361-4 of the Criminal Code to imprisonment for a period of three years with a fine of 20,000 rubles (more than 5,700 euros). He was also found guilty of other repeated assistance to extremist activities and, on the basis of Part 2 of Article 361-4 of the Criminal Code, was punished with imprisonment for a term of five years with a fine of 26,000 rubles (more than 7,400 euros). By absorbing a less severe punishment with a more severe one, the punishment was finally imposed in the form of five years of imprisonment in a high security colony with a fine of 26,000 rubles.

The first criminal case of the human rights defender

Leanid Sudalenka is one of the first human rights defenders who faced criminal prosecution after the 2020 presidential election.

He was detained on the morning of January 18, 2021 on his way to the office as part of a criminal case initiated under Article 342 of the Criminal Code (group actions grossly violating public order) and was placed in a temporary detention facility. Maryia Tarasenka, a Viasna volunteer, was also detained on the same day, and a few days later, another volunteer, Tatsiana Lasitsa, was detained.

Леанід Судаленка адразу пасля вызвалення з
Leanid Sudalenka immediately after his release from Vitba. Photos from social media of the human rights defender

On September 3, 2021, the trial began in the court of the Central District of Homieĺ. Judge Siarhei Salouski issued a ruling, choosing to conduct the proceeding behind closed doors. On November 3, 2021, Leanid was sentenced to three years of imprisonment in a general security colony. And in October 2022, the Interior Ministry added the political prisoner of the human rights defender to the list of "persons involved in extremist activities."

On July 21, 2023, the human rights defender was released from penal colony No. 3, having fully served his sentence and left the country. Time has shown that it has been for good reason.

"The trial in absentia will directly contradict the main law of the country”

When he was already abroad, Leanid learned about the initiation of special proceedings against him. On November 1, 2023, the Homeĺ District Court initiated a new criminal case. Leanid is charged under Parts 1 and 2 of Article 361-4 of the Criminal Code (assistance to extremist activities). 

The human rights defender immediately sent the investigators a paper stating that he had been forced to leave the country and move to Lithuania because of the persecution, and left them his Lithuanian phone number for communication. However, no one answered him: neither the investigators, nor the lawyer appointed by the state:

"It is clear that no one wrote or called me, they only searched my place and the land was seized. Less than six months later, they finalized the case and sent it to court. But by doing so, they violate their own rules of special proceedings. According to Paragraph 2 of Part 2 of Articles 468-25 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, special proceedings can be carried out if the following conditions are met simultaneously. One of them is that a foreign state refused extradition of an accused person for criminal prosecution, or within six months from the moment the Prosecutor General's Office sent a request to a foreign state body for extradition of a person for criminal prosecution the consent of a foreign state to extradite the accused has not been obtained.

As you can see, the six months for a request for my extradition or refusal to do so end only on May 1, even if they sent a request to Lithuania for my extradition to Belarus on the first day after the case was initiated."

Leanid Sudalenka with his "godfather", Bundestag deputy Konstantin von Notz.

Sudalenka then sent motions to the Homeĺ Regional Сourt to recuse the judge and lawyer, and also announced his participation in the case via a web conference.

In early June, human rights defender Leanid Sudalenka appealed to the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus to influence the practice of trials in absentia in the country.

"According to the Constitution (Article 115), Belarusian justice is administered on the basis of competition and equality in the process. I was deported from the country because of political repression, and when I return, the repression will continue," the human rights activist notes. "A sentence in absentia will deprive me of guarantees of competitiveness and equality of the parties, which will directly contradict the basic law of the country. A court verdict cannot overturn constitutional guarantees. After all, I have the same Belarusian passport as the chief judge of the country and it says that I am under the protection of the state."

The human rights defender plans to file an appeal within 10 days after the announcement of the verdict.

"I intend to involve as many of the Lukashenka judges in the case as possible, so that they will also answer for their actions later," Leanid Sudalenka said.

"They break their own rules of special proceedings." The case against Leanid Sudalenka was transferred to the court

It is known that there are two volumes of the case materials, but the essence of the accusation is still unknown.

Latest news