Valyantin Shayeu, the new head of the Investigation Committee, signed a warrant to raid the charter97.org office.
Looking through the list of new appointments in the KGB and the Investigation Committee, I found the name of Valyantin Shayeu. I remember it from the warrant to raid the charter97.org office and my home in Minsk on March 16, 2010. Flats of journalists Iryna Khalip, Svyatlana Kalinkina and Maryna Koktysh were also searched on that day.
All eight computers were seized from the office. Investigating officer Puseu agreed to show me the search warrant signed by Shayeu only after plainclothes men hit me in the face (I had a black eye for a month) and burst into the office.
Masked men took the computers out of the office in accordance with Shayeu's order. I asked one of them to introduce himself and show his ID, but he gave a Nazi salute in response.
Similar things happened to Iryna Khalip, Maryna Koktysh and Svyatlana Kalinkina. Equipment, data storage devices and voice recorders were quickly confiscated in silence.
All searches were carried out in connection with the so called “hunting case” based on a conflict between law-enforcement agencies in the Homel region. A criminal case over libel in covering the topic by the media was initiated on a claim by Ivan Korzh, the head of the KGB directorate for the Homel region.
It was the beginning of a serious attack on us. It continued for several months. Interrogations, which were recorded, lasted for two or three hours.
No one was presented charges. As I understand it now, the first criminal case was a warning for us to shut up.
We didn't shut up. The situation developed rapidly: founder of charter97.org Aleh Byabenin was founded hanged in September, the office was raided again (11 computers were seized and never returned), Iryna Khalip and I were thrown into the KGB jail.
Iryna Khalip serves her two-year suspended sentence in fact being kept under house arrest. She cannot reunite with her husband, former presidential candidate and political prisoner Andrei Sannikov. Charter97.org staff have to work in exile outside Belarus.
The “mopping-up operation” against independent media, which was launched among others by Valyantin Shayeu, continues today. Even editor of cultural magazine Arche Valer Bulhakau had to leave the country. As Nasha Niva editor-in-chief said in his latest article, “You write history? Write it! You sing song? Sing! But if you have Lukashenka on your cover, you'll be punched.”
Complicity in crackdown on the opposition is the right and perhaps the only way for career growth. Before December 19, 2010, Ihar Shunevich was an unremarkable chief of the corruption and organised crime department in the KGB. He showed special zeal after the mass arrests: he interrogated presidential candidates and their team members in the KGB jail looking for “West's dirty tricks” in the events on December 19, 2010. He is the minister of internal affairs now. Valyantin Shayeu was an ordinary prosecutor in the Homel region. He signed a search warrant against journalists and suddenly became the deputy head of the newly created Investigation Committee and then headed it.
Dear henchmen should not forget the simple truth: you will have to answer for everything. Enjoy your posts now, your salaries and villas, if you have this opportunity now. All your stories have the same end: dismissal, what happened to Zaitsau, a bullet, what Kazak met, or just the Nuremberg Tribunal.
Natallia Radzina, charter97.org editor-in-chief
March 16, 2010. Computers being seized from Charter'97 office.