2011 03/11

Today, on November 2, 2011 in Minsk trial over Ales Bialiatsky, the head of the human rights center “Viasna” and vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) began.

We will remind you that Ales Bialiatsky has been under arrest since August 4, 2011. He is charged with violation of Article 243, Part 2 of the Criminal Code (concealment of income on the especially large scale). The reason for the prosecution of human rights defender was the information about his accounts in foreign banks. The information on these accounts was passed to the Belarusian authorities by the Ministry of Justice of Lithuania and the Prosecutor General of Poland in the framework of agreements on legal assistance. The maximum penalty for violation of this article is imprisonment up to seven years, with confiscation of property.

According to international observers, in general, the court session was held in compliance with the procedural rules of the Belarusian legislation. Thus, the defendant was provided with an interpreter and a part of defense appeals were granted. But it was noted, however, that the process took place in a more closed environment than the trials over political activists convicted in connection with the events of December 19, 2010. Also the observers noted the obvious facts of pressure upon the accused by the prosecution and the court’s ignoring essentially important for further progress in the case applications of the defense.

The beginning of the process

Process was of a limited openness: at the beginning of the trial filming in the room was banned, several people were removed from the courtroom because of their t-shirts with the inscription “Freedom for Ales Bialiatsky” and on the eve of the event a number of European human rights defenders were not allowed to enter the country.

Nevertheless, the court was attended by the representatives of embassies of the United States and several European countries, Belarussian politicians and former political prisoners, human rights activists, civil society activists and cultural figures. The names of all those people who were present at the trial and the names of their organizations were registered by members of the security services.

International observers were unpleasantly surprised that Ales Belyatsky was in a “cage” during the hearing; while part of it he had been handcuffed.

Applications for the defense

The trial began with motions of the parties. Ales asked the court to change the preventive punishment on recognizance not to leave the country and keep the process in Belarusian language. Both motions were rejected. The first one was later duplicated by the counsel in writing, but the judge rejected it again. He explained this by saying that Bialiatsky was accused of committing a grievous crime. Guarantees of citizens with the same requests were not accepted. Also, the petition for reclamation of Ales’s customs inspection at the state border crossing points during his trips abroad was not accepted.

In the first part of the court session the prosecutor made a statement that if Ales would sincerely answer questions in court and would not interfere with the investigation and the process, the prosecution can request to change the preventive measure against him. This statement was commented by Bialiatsky’s lawyer, who stated that the Code of Criminal Procedure of Republic of Belarus does not imply any connection of preventive measures chosen with answers of the convicted during questioning in court. According to Olga Salamatova, the representative of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Warsaw) – participating organization of the Committee of international control over the human rights situation in Belarus, who was present at the hearing, such a statement of the prosecutor could be regarded as contempt of the court, demonstration of his dependence on the prosecution and pressure on the convicted.

Nevertheless, the application was accepted about translating the financial documents, which among other things reflect the purpose of funding. In the materials of the case which build the prosecution this information is presented in foreign languages. Also, the accused was provided with an interpreter who was near the lawyer, 1.5 meter from the defendant the first part of the process.

The prosecution and prosecutorial questioning

After consideration of the requests the court turned to the investigation. The prosecutor read out the indictment and the interrogation of Ales Bialiatsky about his sources of income, his professional activities, etc. began. Ales made a statement that he didn’t recognize his fault, didn’t understand how and why the amount studied by the accuser as his income, found that the prosecution were lacking any logic, as well as the fact that this whole thing was a manifestation of prosecution for human rights activities. In particular, Ales has not confirmed the facts of transferring funds from his accounts to the accounts of other human rights activists, arguing that he feared persecution against them by the KGB. In addition, Bialiatsky expressed distrust to the bank documents shown to him upon which the prosecution was built because they were not translated into Russian or Belarusian language and were not properly formalized.

Ales stressed that the money received on the account went only to support the human rights center “Viasna” and other Belarusian human rights organizations.

The testimony lasted 2.5 hours and all the time Ales was standing while the other participants of the process were standing, which, according to observers was a violation and abusive treatment of the accused.

The judge ignored the request of the counsel on the court’s request to the organizations that funded the activities of the human rights center “Viasna”, about the expenditure of funds transferred by these organizations to Bialiatsky’s account.

At 17.29 the hearing was adjourned until 10:00 of November 3.

The position of the International Observation Mission

Assessing the facts, International observation mission of the Committee of international control over the human rights situation in Belarus, stressed that

1. The choice of such preventive measure for Bialiatsky is excessive even for Belarusian legislation, taking into account thousands of pledges and the positions of Ales Bialiatsky himself, as well as his status at the international level.

2. The position of Belarus on the prevention of international observers from Europe by denying visas to them on trumped-up reasons is contrary to international obligations that Belarus has undertaken.

3. Rejecting number of important defense appeals raises doubts that the trial will be held on principles of fairness, impartiality and respect for human rights.

Quoting hrwatch-by.org,
Prepared by Ales LETA,
Belarusian Legal Portal,

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