On January 20, 2010 Prosecutor General of Belarus stated that neither Mikalai Autukhovich nor Uladzimir Asipenka made any complaints in the process of investigation of the case, and also said it would be a trial in an open court.
- I believe that Prosecutor General misleads the Belarusian and international community, stating that there had been no complaints of the accused made during preliminary investigation. From the first day of their illegal detention Autukhovich and Asipenka expressed their resentment over the fact of their detention, refusing to give any evidence. In the first months hard pressure on them was made by police investigators, to make them confess to what they hadn’t done. I remind that Autukhovich is a Co-chairman of the organizing committee for creation of an independent Republican public association of war veterans “Fatherland Defenders”. Only our committee has sent to Vasilevich several complaints indicating facts confirming that the investigation is based just on false accusations of one person. We demanded release of the accused, as their keeping in custody was done without lawful grounds. The prosecutor has also forgotten how many citizens had been detained in the case, and who were deprived of liberty, but later the charges against them were dismissed. Neither prosecutor’s office nor preliminary investigation bodies offered apologies for their mistakes to the affected citizens. Paval Sapelka, a lawyer, as far as I remember, lodged several complaints against actions of investigators as well. After defence attorneys read the materials of the case, they filed a request for termination of the criminal case and release of the accused, as the materials didn’t have proofs about which the leadership of the prosecutor’s office and the Interior Ministry had been saying to the public many times,” stated in an interview to “Belarusian Partisan” an authorised attorney of the Autukhovichs family, the head of the human rights centre “Legal Assistance to the Population” Aleh Vouchak.
- Do you think it will be a public trial?
- This issue is not to be decided by the Prosecutor General of Belarus, but under Article 281 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Belarus by the judge, who is to try this case. We already know how public trials are held recently. Let’s recall the trials against presidential candidate Kazulin, the case against participants of the peaceful rally “Process of Fourteen”, when riot policemen were standing near the entrance and said who would be allowed to enter the court room. Even those who managed to enter, had no seats in the court room, as policemen in mufti were allowed to enter it before to fill the room. So the public trial could be possibly held in such a regime. The problem is different, to what degree the court would be independent and objective.
- But still, is the decision of the prosecutor’s office to forward the case to the Supreme Court and not to the local court where the crime had been committed, legal?
- Firstly, under Article 271 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Belarus, a criminal case should be tried in the court according to the venue of the crime, that is in Vaukavysk or Hrodna. It can be tried in Minsk if the site of the crime hadn’t been detected.
Secondly, under Article 269 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Belarus, the Supreme Court tries the following cases: crimes committed by highest officials of the state; upon consent of the accused in order to ensure objectiveness of the court trial or on the imitative of the Supreme Court. In this case there are no grounds for this case to be tried in the Supreme Court, as Autukhovich and Asipenka are not highest officials of the state, and hadn’t applied (as well as their defenders) for consideration of this case by the Supreme Court. And the last thing, the Supreme Court really can try any case, but only on its own initiative. This criminal case was received by an initiative of the Office f Prosecutor General, so let us hope that this case would be forwarded to a different court according to territorial jurisdiction. Such a decision would answer interests of the accused.
- Why would it be better for the accused for their case to be tried by a lower court?
- Then the accused would have a possibility to appeal against the verdict in cassation proceedings, and the criminal case judged in the Supreme Court cannot be reviewed in cassation proceedings. That is why it is important for us for this case to be tried according to territorial jurisdiction.
- When the date of the court proceedings will be known?
- I think the date would be known as under the current legislation a decision about setting a date for trial should be adopted prior to or on 14 days since the case was received by the court, and proceedings in a case should start within one month. Only in exclusive cases the Supreme Court can set a date for trial within one to three months. In any case, it is to be known soon, as more than 14 days have passed since the case was received by the Supreme Court.