23 January 2021, Saturday, 8:29
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Mikalai Autukhovich: Moral coercion was exerted on us (Photo)

Mikalai Autukhovich: Moral coercion was exerted on us (Photo)

The first trial over political prisoners lasts for 2 hours only: the session has been rescheduled for March 16.

The trial over political prisoner Mikalai Autukhovich and Uladzimir Asipenka who have spent in jail more than a year, started on March 10 in the Supreme Court of Belarus. At 9:45 a.m. 20 persons were allowed to enter the court room according to lists. Persons who entered the Supreme Court building were asked to show passports. Journalists demanded the right to be present in the court room as well. Among those who have come to support the political prisoners were the leader of civil campaign “European Belarus” Andrei Sannikov, a human rights activist Ales Byalatski, a public activist Vyachaslau Siuchyk, a former deputy of the “chamber of representatives” Valery Fralou, a human rights activist Aleh Vouchak, the Belarusian Christian Democracy leader Paval Sevyarynets, a former political prisoner Syarhei Parsyukevich and many others.

The trial started at 10:15 a.m. A representative of the Supreme Court said that the court room with 70 seats was filled to capacity.

As Radio Svaboda informs, those who were not able to get to the trial, started to resent. Some went to the office of the Supreme Court to write complaints. A businessman Ales Makaeu and a former political prisoner Syarhei Skrabets tried to get to the court room. Makaeu managed to have a meeting with the deputy chairman of the Supreme Court Kanyuk. The businessman demanded to carry out the process in a larger room. Kanyuk agreed that the problem existed.

Mikalai Autukhovich, Uladzimir Asipenka, as well as Alyaksandr Laryn and Mikhail Kazlou, who also appear in this case, are on trial today. Judge Alyaksei Tsyatsykhin, prosecutor Safarau are presiding the trial. As informed by “Nasha Niva”, in the beginning of the court session video and photo footage was prohibited, as one of the defendants, Alyaksandr Laryn, was against of it. Photo reporters and filming crews were sent away from the court room.

During the trial the political prisoner Mikalai Autukhovich stated that intimidation, moral coercion against him was used by the interrogators. As said by the Vaukavysk businessman, Yury Lyavonau and Uladzimir Asipenka had been offered to testify against him in return for release. Thus, as said by Autukhovich, Lyavonau was said that in case he wouldn’t testify, he would be imprisoned for a log term. And Asipenka would be released and allowed to be present at his daughter’s wedding, Autukhovich said.

Mikalai Autukhovich also said that about 10 persons had been detained in the case, and studying materials of the case was held in inhuman conditions, at zero temperature. As said by the political prisoner, even lawyers were sitting in warm jackets.

Autukhovich noted that during investigation of the case more than 10 persons were imprisoned. As said by the businessman, all of them experienced moral coercion.

During the trial Autukhovich applied for copies of materials of the case to be given to him for additional study. He also demanded the trial to be held in Minsk city or Hrodna regional court.

He also applied for inviting Alyaksandr Kamarouski and Aleh Vouchak as public defenders.

The appeal of Autukhovich about additional studying the materials was satisfied, and as for copying the materials, the judge said it would be done when possible.

The pleat to invite Alyaksandr Kamarouski and Aleh Vouchak as advocates was dismissed. The judge stated that advocates of Autukhovich and Asipenka are professional enough.

While the trial over the political prisoners was held in the Supreme Court, representatives of the Belarusian opposition held a solidarity rally to support Autukhovich and Asipenka. On the bridge over Partyzanski Avenue (near “Belarus” department store) in Minsk a 10-metre streamer “Freedom to Autukhovich and Asipenka” appeared. It was placed there by activists of “Young Belarus”.

It should be noted that Belarusian human right activists think there are no grounds to consider the case of Vaukavysk businessmen Mikalai Autukhovich and Uladzimir Asipenka in the Supreme Court. The authorities chose it on purpose, in order the defendants not to be able to appeal against judgments of the Supreme Court.

“The case of the political prisoners is going to be heard in the court after a year after their detention. We had a hope the case will be considered by the Hrodna or Minsk region courts. The Supreme Court considers cases of high ranking officials; it also can choose the cases to consider. But we know that it wasn’t an initiative of the Supreme Court, but an order of the Prosecutor General. Proceedings in another court would allow appealing against judgements. A decision of the Supreme Court is final, so this derogate from the rights of the businessmen,” human rights activist Aleh Vouchak told in an interview to charter97.org.

The human rights defender notes that the court didn’t allow Autukhovich and Asipenka’s lawyers to make copies of the materials of the case.

“We knew that the only witnesses in the case are two persons, but the prosecution decided to call al witnesses for unknown reasons. They cannot give any evidence in the case. Interrogation of witnesses by court takes weeks. The process is being dragged out intentionally. The investigation apparently wants to show that the year wasn’t spent in vain. I remind that there were some motions to close the criminal case, but Prosecutor General Vasilevich didn’t respond to them.

A lot of diplomats, human rights activists, common citizens can present at the trial in the Supreme Court on March 10. The Ministry of Internal Affairs promised in public that the trial would be open. We’ll see. We don’t expect acquittal. These people should have been released a year ago and received official apologies. Our aim is to demonstrate our solidarity, come to court and record all violations committed by the court and investigation,” Aleh Vouchak said.

The human rights activist is sure that Autukhovich and Asipenka are political prisoners. “These people are prisoners of conscience. What were they arrested for? To continue intimidating of active citizens. The regime of Lukashenka can’t exist without political prisoners – it needs something to trade with Europe,” Aleh Vouchak thinks.

We remind that businessmen from Vaukavysk Mikalai Autukhovich, Yury Lyavonau, and Uladzimir Asipenka , who have always defended their rights actively, were arrested on February 8, 2009. On February 18, the entrepreneurs were charged under article 218 of the Criminal Code (intentional damage to or destruction of property of citizens). On June 23, a criminal case under article 359 of the Criminal Code (a terroristic act) in the form of preparation (article 13) was instigated against Autukhovich and “other persons”. They are accused of attempt on the life of regional high-ranking officials. Later, Yury Lyavonau was released and cleared from all charges.

The influential Human Rights Watch recognized the Vaukavysk businessmen political prisoners.

Photo by Yuliya Darashkevich, «Nasha Niva»

Photo by Yuliya Darashkevich, «Nasha Niva»

Afghan war veterans, co-chairmen of the organizing committee for creation of the Union of ; combat actions veterans “Fatherland Defenders” Aleh Vouchak and Alyaksandr Kamarouski . Photo by Yuliya Darashkevich, «Nasha Niva»

Photo by Yuliya Darashkevich, «Nasha Niva»

Leader of civil campaign “European Belarus” Andrei Sannikov