17 January 2018, Wednesday, 14:04

“Foreign agents” hunt in Belarus


A Belarusian pensioner was convicted for receiving foreign aid to “change the regime”.

Minsk's Pershamaiski district court took a decision to fine the pensioner on June 12. The court decision is signed by judge Leanid Yarmalenkau. According to the document, pensioner Tatsiana Zialko must pay a fine of 5 million rubles.

“Tatsiana Zialko has been conducting activities to organise and carry out campaigning among people for a long time,” the court decision reads.

The document notes that the pensioner's activity was to achieve political aims and change the current regime. The court found Tatsiana Zialko guilty of applying to international organisations asking not to recognise the 2010 presidential election and calling to impose sanctions on “a number of government officials”.

The court proceedings were launched after the arrest of Tatsiana Zialko near the Slovak Embassy in Minsk on March 25, 2013.

“My son and I were detained by about 20 officers of different law-enforcement bodies as we were leaving the embassy. A major of the Financial Investigation Department of the State Control Committee was in charge of the operation. I also saw officers of the criminal investigation department and riot policemen. I had foreign currency, 1,453.25 euros, and my son had a laptop. It seemed that two platoons were hunting the money. After a short talk we were taken to one of the two minibuses,” the pensioner told charter97.org.

The detainees were taken to the Financial Investigation Department.

“My son and I were taken to different offices and questioned. The questioning lasted for 4.5 hours. They tried to make us confess that we had received money in the embassy. They used many exotic threats: for example, they threatened to 'fingerprint the ambassador'. The result was predictable – they seized the laptop and the money,” Tatsiana Zialko says.

The pensioner explained that she didn't attend the trial, because it was postponed several times and was on purpose appointed for the day when she was abroad.

Aleh Vouchak, the head of the organisation “Legal Assistance to People”, is confident that the court took an illegal decision.

“It's interesting to note that the materials presented to court confirmed that the woman had been under police surveillance long before her detention on March 25, 2013. The police monitored all her contacts and visits,” Aleh Vouchak said to charter97.org.

The human rights activist thinks the case of Tatsiana Zialko is similar to the case of Andrei Haidukou, who was recently found guilty in Vitebsk. He supposes that the Belarusian authorities prepare the ground to adopt an analogue of the Russian law on “foreign agents”.

“The authorities try to distract people from cooperating with foreign human rights organisations and charitable foundations. They try to decrease the activity of civil society and the youth amid the ongoing economic crisis. These two cases are not an coincidence. The authorities begin to use new methods of struggling against their opponents and look at the reaction in the country and abroad. It's possible that an analogue of the Russian law on 'foreign agents' may be adopted in Belarus. The law can be applied to any citizen or organisation dealing with foreigners,” the human rights activist said.

Tatsiana Zialko is the head of the initiative to create an organisation of Belarusian pensioners “Our Generation”. Her son, who was detained on March 25, is a secretary of the organisation.