Ales Bialiatski trial: Oral arguments (online). Verdict due on 24 November.

2011 2011-11-23T20:43:00+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Ales Bialiatski at trial. Photo by European Radio for Belarus

Ales Bialiatski at trial. Photo by European Radio for Belarus

Judge Siarhei Bandarenka of Minsk Pershamaiski District Court has resumed the hearing of the criminal case of Viasna leader Ales Bialiatski.

10.10 – In his address to the court, public prosecutor Uladzimir Saikouski says the evidence examined during the judicial investigation is sufficient to find Ales Bialiatski guilty. “The validity of the financial papers is beyond doubts. It is not crucial that they do not have seals and signatures on them”, says the prosecutor.

10.30 – Referring to the Tax Code, the prosecutor argues that all incomes from abroad are liable to taxation. According to him, Ales Bialiatski’s case is no exception. He is extremely critical when speaking of Bialiatski’s claims on the money as meant for human rights activities.

“Thus, it has been established that the administration of financial resources on the Lithuanian and Polish bank accounts was carried out by Bialiatski according to his ideas, and the money should be viewed as his personal income”, says Mr. Saikouski.

The prosecutor demands 5 years of medium security imprisonment with forfeiture for offence.

10.40 – In his speech, the defense lawyer mentions the great public merits of the defendant. “The charges fall short of the Criminal Code provisions and violate Ales Bialiatski’s right to legal protection, as they fail to mention the time and place of the alleged offence, as well as the means of its commitment”, says counsel Dzmitry Layeuski.

Counsel Layeuski: “We have not heard where the figures of the resources received by Bialiatski came from. Besides, there are no proofs of a deliberate tax evasion. The investigation clearly established that he had two accounts abroad and that certain money was transferred to them. All the rest is not proven, but is merely assumed by the investigation. The fact of resources being transferred from foreign accounts to Belarus has not been proven”.

11.00 – The defense lawyer stresses that a number of orders by Minsk prosecuting authorities concerning the case failed to be executed. Apart from that, several motions by the defense were denied by the court.

“The presentation of the case as it is, with copies of bank accounts that failed to be translated from foreign languages, is evidence of the impartiality of the tax inspections of Bialiatski’s assets”, says the lawyer.

“Even the witnesses for the prosecution testified in favour of Bialiatski. The investigation failed to provide evidence as to the means and amounts of money transfers to Belarus, as well as concerning the very fact of their transfer. Therefore, all the financial resources are not liable to taxation under the Belarusian legislation on foreign humanitarian aid. Apart from that, the money is not gratis aid, and thus Bialiatski is not guilty of violating Decree #24 (President’s Decree on foreign humanitarian aid)”, says Mr. Layeuski.

Referring to the current legislation, the lawyer argues that the money transferred to Belarus is not liable to taxation.

“Resources received by an individual from another individual for implementing certain obligations or transfer to third persons are not liable to taxation. The money was not Bialiatski’s income, but was received for human rights activities, as the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, as well as definite directions of activities, projects and trips, were stated as the purpose in the papers”, says the defense lawyer.

The investigation deliberately ignored the defense’s request and failed to address the international organizations that had transferred the money in order to inquire on the objectives of the resources and whether they were satisfied with their use, as these papers would completely justify Bialiatski.

The investigation deliberately ignored the defense’s request and failed to address the international organizations that had transferred the money in order to inquire on the objectives of the resources and whether they were satisfied with their use, as these papers would completely justify Bialiatski.

The inquiry to the Lithuanian bank was sent before the initiation of the criminal case, which violated the provisions of the Legal Protection Act and contributed to the illegal reception of evidence. Therefore, the information cannot be viewed as evidence.

11.50 – The counsel emphasizes the fact that part of the case files are anonymous appeals, which contradicts the Code of Criminal Procedures.

“Some receipts have nothing to do with the case and have no significance as evidence. This creates a false impression of existence of a set of evidence. The belonging of the email box where certain case materials were received to Uladzimir Labkovich has not been proven. IN general, the data received during the investigation cannot be basis for prosecution”, says the lawyer.

11.55 – Ales Bialiatski presents his last statement. He supports his lawyer’s arguments. He also says the case is politically motivated. “Therefore the lawyer and I are trying to reach the sun”, says Ales Bialiatski. According to him, the KGB has been deliberately operating against human rights defenders, which eventually resulted in the case.

“Forty years have passed since a friend of mine gave me a book on the KGB’s counteraction against human rights defenders. In these three months, I have been back to the USSR. When we were going to Rakau for a search, I tried to ask the agents why they were using the old methods. I do not believe that the KGB and other secret services do not know what Viasna is doing. IN case they view us a source of income for the opposition, this is lack of professionalism. The KGB know well what we are doing in Belarus and is deliberately working against human rights defenders, making use of any means possible”, says Ales Bialiatski.

Ales Bialiatski emphasizes that some 400 organizations have been closed down by the authorities. Viasna was not registered even after a decision by the UN Human Rights Committee. He also says criminal liability for illegal NGO activities was introduced in 2006.

A terrible campaign of harassment against Viasna and myself as its head was launched in 2011. The Belarusian authorities are authoritarian in their essence, and there is place for human rights defenders there.

“Many of my friends have been dismissed from their jobs and subjected to administrative harassment. The authorities are persecuting their political opponents, restricting civil and political rights and preventing the development of civil society. The authorities do not stand any criticism, harassing journalists and human rights defenders. The key contradiction is in the fact that the authorities’ actions are an outrage against the Belarusian Constitution and the country’s international obligations”, says Viasna’s leader.

Bialiatski enumerates the fundamental human rights guaranteed by the Constitution and international treaties, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. “Why did you sign the Declaration? Leave the UN and the OSCE, and everyone will be able to see where we all are”, says Ales Bialiatski, addressing the prosecutor as representative of the State.

“The political nature of the case is stressed by the public reactions, by my transportation to the court building escorted by a road police car, by what has been written by the state media. The information produced by the state media is a direct pressure on the court. I am glad that much has been said about Viasna, as the court may mistreat the motives and actions considered here without proper understanding of human rights activities in Belarus. Viasna has been operating for 15 years in extremely hard conditions. One of our key objectives is providing assistance to the victims of political repressions. Over the years, we have helped thousands of people”, says Ales Bialiatski.

Today’s court session is over. The verdict will be pronounced at 11 a.m. 24 November.    

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