The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee believe that criminal charges against leading opposition politician and public figure Mikhail Marynich, a former minister and Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Republic of Belarus, who ran for the presidency in 2001, are politically motivated. We insist that this trial must meet international standards of transparency and due process.
Latvian president Vaira Vike-Freiberga answered to the letter of the sons of Mikhail Marynich, Belarusian political prisoner, who asked for her support before the trial of their father, former Belarusian ambassador to Latvia. “Together with my people I have gone through a life of severities and oppression, and I can understand the situation of your father and your family very well. Today, when in result of common efforts of the society and the international support, Latvia has become a democratic and flourishing state, has returned to the family of the European nations, it is very distressing to see the events in the neighboring Belarus and realize the possibilities the Belarusian people are deprived of in the modern Belarus,” the Latvian President wrote in the letter.
Police officers on Wednesday evening detained some 80 independent election observers in an apparent attempt to prevent them from travelling to Ukraine. The monitors gathered in a conference hall of the Belarus hotel to receive instructions on observing Ukraine’s repeat presidential runoff scheduled for December 26. However, arriving policemen detained everyone bringing them to a police station for identification. “We were detained for identification allegedly following an anonymous phone call,” said observer Nikolai Astreiko late on Wednesday.
The trial over one of the leaders of the Belarusian opposition Mikhail Marynich has started today in the court of Minsk district at 10 a.m. Not all journalists were allowed to enter the court room, allegedly as there was no space there, though there were more spacious rooms in the building of the court. The video recording of the trial was prohibited. As the Charter’97 press center was informed, in the first part of the sitting of the court Mikhail Marynich’s defense filed a petition to summon additional witnesses to the court. The request had been granted. The indictment of the former minister and diplomat has been read. Mikhail Marynich pled not guilty and told that a political persecution is carried out against him.
On December 23 in the evening the unknown in plainclothes burst into the office of the civil initiative “Partnerstva”. In the absence of the head of the organization a search has been mad in the office. After the search the officers of the police department of the Soviet district of Minsk removed and took system blocks of the computers with all information of the civil initiative “Partnerstva”.
A leading newspaper commentator regrets that the Latvian authorities have not reacted in support of a Belarusian opposition leader, who is a former ambassador to Latvia and who is going on trial in Minsk tomorrow. The following is the text of the commentary by Askolds Rodins entitled "Too quiet" and published by the Latvian newspaper Diena on 22 December; subheadings inserted editorially:
[Presenter] Tomorrow in the Belarusian capital Minsk, the former ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of Belarus to Latvia, Estonia and Finland [from 1999 until his resignation in July 2001], Mikhail Marynich, will go on trial on various charges. In the West the view is widely held that Mikhail Marynich is a political prisoner, and the charges laid against him are mere formalities. Support for Mikhail Marynich is being observed both within Belarus and outside its borders. Moreover, Marynich`s sons are currently visiting Latvia and other European countries asking for support in this lawsuit.
Bernard Fassier took over from Henry Jacquelyn as the French co-chairman of the Minsk Group of the OSCE. Azer-press learned from diplomatic sources that m-r Fassier is an experienced diplomatist who started his career at the ministry of foreign affairs of France as a deputy department of the department for the USSR in 1987. Ambassador Fassier`s most recent appointment was as the French Ambassador to Belarus (1997-2002). Since joining the French Foreign Service in 1987 he has held the position of Vice Director for the USSR (1987-1990), and has worked for the French Embassies in Switzerland (1990-1993) and Georgia (1993-1997).
Latvian non-governmental organizations expressed their solidarity with the former Minister of Foreign Economic Relations, Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Belarus, deputy of the 12th Supreme Soviet Mikhail Marynich (Marinich), and signed a letter in his support. The trial over one of the leaders of opposition arrested in April this year has started today in the court of Minsk district. The petition was signed by such organizations as the NGO “Open Belarus”, the Latvian Transatlantic Organization (LATO), the European Movement in Latvia, the People’s Party Youth organization, the organization “Western Russians”, the Latvian Youth Council.
The Minsk city bar association on December 22 issued a sharp reprimand to Vera Stremkovskaya, the lawyer of Mikhail Marinich, for reportedly smuggling the politician’s correspondence. The decision came a day before Mr. Marinich’s trial at the Minsk District Court.
A member of the European Parliament representing Lithuania has suggested launching television and radio stations in that country for providing unbiased coverage of the situation in Belarus. As Aloyzas Sakalas told reporters in Vilnius on Wednesday, the matter was under discussion at a meeting of the EP Socialist group in Strasbourg.
Belarusian authorities arrested a Russian cameraman on Wednesday, when he was among a group of independent observers in Minsk set to depart for Ukraine to monitor the elections there. Hours earlier the cameraman had been filming opposition activists handing out flyers.
A trial over one of the leaders of the Belarusian opposition Mikhail Marynich has started today in Minsk at 10 a.m. in the court of Minsk district. The trial promises to be one of the most in the modern history of Belarus, like the political trials over former Prime Minister Mikhail Chyhir, ex-minister of Agriculture Vasily Lyavonau, chairman of the closed joint-stock company “Rassvet” Vasil Staravojtau. Ambassadors of the countries –members of the EU, the head of the OSCE Mission, famous politicians and public figures of Belarus, including coordinator of the European coalition “Free Belarus” Andrei Sannikov, leader of the MP group Valery Fralou, the United Civil Party Anatol Lyabedzka came to the process. About 200 activists of the Zubr movement came to the court wearing jerseys with the portraits of the political prisoner an a slogan “Free Marynich!” Zubr activist will support Mikhail Marynich throughout the whole legal process.
Finance Minister Nikolai Korbut has sued the private sports newspaper Pressbol over what he calls a libelous front-page headline, a move that has prompted Editor-in-Chief Vladimir Berezhkov to appeal to Aleksandr Lukashenko for support.
Fyodor Ivanov, chairman of the State Aviation Committee charged with abuse of office, has been taken into custody, Yury Azaryonok, spokesman for the Prosecutor General’s Office, told BelaPAN. The warrant for his arrest was issued by the Belarusian Transport Prosecutor’s Office. The charge was brought against Mr. Ivanov on December 20, but then he was left free on his own recognizance.
The Council of Republic of the Belarusian National Assembly on December 22 gave its consent to Aleksandr Lukashenko’s decision to appoint Pyotr Miklashevich as prosecutor general. A presidential decree to this effect was issued by the Belarusian leader on November 29. Mr. Miklashevich was introduced to the upper chamber by the former prosecutor general, Viktor Sheiman, who was appointed by Mr. Lukashenko to head the Presidential Administration by the same edict.