Belarusian and international organizations need to respond quickly to such cases.
Today Head of the Investigatory Committee Ivan Naskevich said at the press-conference in Mahiliou that the criminal prosecution of all the defenders in the patriots’ case had been terminated, and the case files had been submitted to the prosecutor's office.
Coordinator of the civil campaign "European Belarus" Dzmitry Bandarenka commented on this statement by the Investigatory Committee, for the website charter97.org.
— Why did the authorites announce closing of the “patriots’ case”? What can it be connected with?
—The “patriots’ case” was started at a time with one aim — to intimidate Belarusians on the eve of the action of March 25, 2017. The authorities realized that dozens of thousands people could come out to this action, and they needed to make noise about this case.
It is clear that is was fabricated from the very start. All the propagandistic fims shown on BT were full of lies, just like the special issue of the Soviet Byelorussia newspaper.
However, lies have short legs: it’s possible to intimidate one or two people, but when they arrest 40 people, it becomes evident that lies sooner or later will leak and the authorities will have to terminate the case.
Today, I feel happy for all the guys who were the defendants in this case, for their families: they will have a little more peace now.
Alongside with that, I have some personal reasons to rejoice about the termination of this case, as they mentioned my name and the names my colleagues and friends in all the propagandistic reports. The propaganda in some way connected us with the “patriots’ case”, and now we can feel more secure, too.
— The “patriots’ case” in general started with the so-called “letter of Frau A. to Lukashenka”, in which you were mentioned. When all this fiction fell apart, what would you like to tell the authors of this “epistolary piece”?
— Back then, I took the appearance of this "letter" quite seriously: I was actually accused under the articles related to "terrorism".
I have nothing to say to the authors of this “letter” personally. In this regard, I would rather like to turn to our HR defenders. Because the discussion that arose within the Belarusian human rights community, whether to recognize that it was a politically motivated case on the spot, resolved today.
It became clear that some of the leading Belarusian human rights organization made a mistake, having failed to recognize the defendants in the “patriots’ case” political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. It had to be done immediately, and if it had been declared in the beginning, it would have been stopped a few months ago.
So I want to say, colleagues, please learn from this case. It is necessary to admit mistakes and not to repeat them in the future.
— According to the tradition, the authorities may try to make use of the termination of the “patriots’ case” in the political trade with the West. What should the European politicians pay attention to in the first place, how do you think?
— It should be understood that the essence of the Lukashenka regime has not changed. This year, the scale of repression can be compared with the end of 2010 - beginning of 2011, when they were introduced sanctions against the Lukashenka regime.
On the eve of the rally on March 25, and during the action over a thousand people were arrested, according to our data. This is a high scale of repression. Thousands of people — the detainees and their relatives — were subjected to pressure from the authorities.
It is obvious that the West should not consider the termination of the "patriots’ case" a "liberalization".
Here I want to point out a firm position of a number of MEPs, government officials in some countries, the United States consistent position on this issue.
It maybe was not made so public in the media — the demand of some countries to Lukashenka to stop repressions and terminate the "patriots’ case", but I know that such conditions were set to the Belarusian authorities. I wish that this position remained clear and the response was rapid.
When the government comes up with a variety of cases involving "terrorism", its insolence paralyzes the friends of Belarus abroad for a while. While there is talk about what "we need to figure out", the most intense pressure happens, when people are being tortured.
The “patriots’ case”, as practice shows, is not an internal matter of Belarus.
These methods — imprisonment in Belarusian KGB jail and other penal facilities— are used with regard to foreigners. We are now witnessing a conflict with Ukraine, when its citizens are arrested and say some strange things at interrogations. Analyzing the situation, we must remember that the Belarusian prisons have not changed much since the NKVD times.
To interrupt this tradition, it is necessary to demand from the Belarusian authorities to respect their own and international laws.
Today, many countries have adopted the "Magnitsky Act", under which citizens of any country, who grossly violated human rights, may fall under international sanctions.
All security forces and government officials of Belarus involved in the fabrication of cases associated with the Square and the patriots’s case are subject to the "Magnitsky Act".
"The case of patriots" was initiated on the eve of Freedom Day in March.
On March 21, Lukashenka stated that "dozens of militants" who "trained in armed camps" in Belarus and abroad and prepared provocations were arrested. Detentions began.
As a result, there were 35 people involved in the "case of patriots." Of them, 20 were also accused of being engaged in "illegal armed formation."
Acting and former officers of the border troops, the Armed Forces, the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the Internal Troops were among the detainees. In the past, some of them were activists of the unregistered sports and patriotic club White Legion (it ceased its activities 15 years ago) and the official club Patriot for teenagers in Babruisk. A few more people were activists of the Young Front.
State television channels showed footage of searches and "seizure of weapons."
It was clarified that the case began with a letter from a certain "Frau A." addressed to Lukashenka: a German citizen with Belarusian roots reported on the preparations for "provocations" to take place in Minsk on March 25.
In the propagandistic movies and reports by the Belarusian Television, leader of the Belarusian National Congress Mikalai Statkevich, leaders of the “European Belarus” civil campaign Andrei Sannikov and Dzmitry Bandarenka, and Editor-in-Chief of the website Charter97.org Natallia Radzina were listed as “the main organizers”.
Although the case was resonant, it received few official comments.
In June, the patriots were gradually released from the remand prison under non-leave and non-disclosure obligations. From some, all allegations were lifted. However, the investigation continued.