Ales Bialiatski: The trial and the verdict to Klimau are absurd.
Human rights defender Ales Bialiatski, vice-President of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), condemns the shameful verdict and imprisonment of Belarusian politician and publicist Andrei Klimau.
Active opponent of the Belarusian authorities Andrei Klimau, who had already served two terms of imprisonment for political reasons, was arrested on April 3rd, 2007 for publishing am article “Revolution Forever, or How to Flay Gypsy Boar in the ….” The Article was published on January 25th, 2007 at the website of the United Civic Party. The prosecutor’s office instigated criminal case under Article 361 part 3 of the Criminal Code “Calls for actions, aimed at damaging the external security of the Republic of Belarus, it sovereignty, territorial inviolability, and national security, connected with the usage of mass media”. On September 7th, 2007 we learned that the case against Andrei Klimau was heard by Centralny court of Minsk on July 30th -- August 1st. Judge Alena Ilyina found the politician and publicist guilty and sentenced him to two years of imprisonment in a high security prison.
It's worth pointing out, this is the first verdict under Article 361 of the Criminal Code. Moreover, the article was published only in the Internet. An influential human rights organization Amnesty International recognized opposition leader Andrei Klimau a prisoner of conscience.
Vice-president of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) Ales Bialiatski thinks imprisonment of Andrei Klimau has no grounds and condemns the shameful verdict made on the ground of a literary work:
“The trial itself, and the verdict made under Article 361 of the Criminal Code are a complete absurd. If one reads the article published at the web-site, it becomes clear right away, that it absolutely does not comply with the charge against Andrei Klimau. The article itself is not a program of action, and even is not a publicistic work, but a certain political literary performance”.
Here can draw a parallel between Klimau’s article and the poem “Kill the president”, written by Slavamir Adamovich more than 10 years ago. Adamovich also spent 8 months in a pre-trial detention center although it was absolutely clear that the poem was a literary provocation.
In the case of Andrei Klimau this is a publicistic fantasy, I would even say – phantasmagoria, which contains the names of real politicians – Lukashenka, Ivashkevich, Viachorka, Liabedzka. However, the very plot of the article has nothing to do with the real life, and with the real political process. It can really be perceived only as a literary work. The article is quite provocative in a good sense of the word, unexpected, and, at the same time, quite talented – it contains interesting ideas and aphoristic statements. However, again, it has no link to the modern political process and the public life in the country. I, as a professional literary critic, state, this is a 100 per cent literary work. Besides that, judging by other works written by Andrei Klimau earlier, it should be pointed out that the article is typical for his works. I don’t see anything much different in comparison with the other works he wrote during the last five years. The failure to understand that, an attempt to squeeze the article in the frames of a criminal charge led the authorities to such a shameful verdict. This is the same as prosecuting people for a song, or a cartoon. This is the second time people in Belarus are tried for a literary work. The authorities released Slavamir Adamovich after the trial, taking into account eight months he spent in the pre-trial detention center. They released him because they felt awkward – it was clear that the poem “Kill the president” is a literary work, such a literary cartoon, made in the form of Russian chastooshka. The case with Andrei Klimau is unprecedented.
By the way, during the trial there should have been a literary expert examination of the article written by Klimau. I really wonder, who was the expert, what conclusions he or she made, etc. Unfortunately we know nothing about that.
That is why, in conjunction with the verdict made I stress, that the investigation bodies and the people who “ordered” the case, have definitely demonstrated their low qualification. It is absolutely clear that the case is politically motivated. That reminds me of cartoons about Lukashenka, the authors of which were prosecuted as well, for slander against Lukashenka. For all these things that are quite disconnected from reality -- poems, cartoons, a publicistic work – people are persecuted. This is a gross violation of human rights by the authorities and by certain people.
I would again stress that the case against Andre Klimau was ordered. It would never come to the minds of prosecutor’s office representatives to initiate a criminal case for an article in the Internet. That means, there was a person who felt really offended by the article. But one should be not really clever and very suspicious in order to treat a literary work which can make a real damage to the state. In this case the discrepancy between the committed offence and the measure of punishment is absolutely obvious.
Andrei Klimau, political prisoner, member of the Supreme Soviet of the 13th convocation. In 2005 he received the National Prize in the sphere of human rights, created by Charter’97, in the nomination “For personal courage in defense of the human rights”.
Earlier Andrei Klimau spent four years behind bars on the accusation of economic crimes. He was also sentenced to 15 months of jail for organizing street protests on the Freedom Day in 2005.
Andrei Klimau was also accused of slander against Alexander Lukashenka: in 2005 Pershamaiski court of Minsk heard the case about slander against the president behind closed doors. However, the case was sent back for revision.
In August 2005 Minsk city prosecutor’s office charged authors of satirical political flash cartoons, which could be downloaded from the web-site of the Third Way organization. The authors of the cartoons were accused of “Slander against the president of the Republic of Belarus” (Article 367 part 2 of the Criminal Code).
Slavamir Adamovich is a poet “provoker”, political prisoner of Lukashenka’s regime. He spent 10 months in jail (April 4th, 1996 – February 7th, 1997). In 1997, at a rally in defense of the freedom of speech, he publicly sewed his mouth as a protest against the policy of the government.