A brief review of the fifth day of the Ales Bialiatski hearing

November 16, 2011 in Minsk saw the fifth day of the hearing of Human Rights Center Viasna Head and Vice-president of FIDH Ales Bialiatski.

Today's hearing was devoted to the disclosure of a new version of the indictment.

Access to the courtroom
The front of the courthouse was blocked by a prohibiting transportation road sign. At the exit, in the back of the building, militia and security vehicles were present as well as two men in civilian clothes and 2 people in special forces uniforms. Next to the building were specialized vehicles for the transport of detainees and two men in civilian clothes.
Visitors and their belongings were inspected at the entrance to the courthouse and at the entrance to the courtroom. The inspection was carried out by men in police uniforms and a man in civilian clothes. In particular, they checked for the presence of Ales Bialiatski T-shirts. They also scanned documents and selectively recorded passport data. A man in civilian clothes led these searches. He ignored questions about for whom and for what purpose the data was taken. At the entrance to the courtroom they videoed prisoners visitors. Personal inspection was carried out even more carefully.

The courtroom was full. After the adjournment of the court for a break between 10:05 and 10.30, a few more people were able to go into the courtroom. In fact, everybody had the opportunity to attend the hearing.

The beginning of the hearing
The court session began with the prosecutor Vladimir Saykovski, the accused Ales Bialiatski and lawyer Dmitri Laevski.
At the beginning of the hearing the prosecutor was to present a new charge. That is to say, he had requested an adjournment in the hearing from November 10 to November 16 in order to do so. However, the prosecutor began with an appeal to the court asking for a 20-minute break to produce "more appropriate language." Judge Sergei Bondarenko adjourned until 10.30 am. The opinion of the accused on this request was not received.

Announcement of the new charge
The prosecutor took less than 20 minutes to produce "more successful language", returning to the to the courtroom 10-12 minutes later. The court resumed at 10.30.
As presented by the indictment essentially nothing changed - Ales Bialiatski is still accused of Art. 243, Part 2 of the Criminal Code (tax evasion on a large scale) with the addition of just one phrase - "in terms of contractual obligations between the defendant and residents of the Republic of Belarus". The charges in new text have not changed: the article, times, and the claims of the public prosecutor are the same.
Ales Bialiatski and the lawyer exercised their right to a 5-day break to review the new text of the charges. Also, the lawyer requested to use the 5 days to get acquainted with all materials attached to the requests of all sides of the case and during previous trials.

The court adjourned the hearing until 10:00 November 22, 2011.
According to most experts, a new formulation of charges has not undergone the significant changes promised. Neither the preventative punishment nor the charges have been altered. However, the course of the process raises concerns that the prosecution still has the possibility to use Article 193-1 (acting on behalf of unregistered organization) against Ales Bialiatski and other activists of the Human Rights Center Viasna. The unexpected 20-minute break announced at the beginning of the meeting gives grounds to assume that the charge associated with the activities of an unregistered organization, was expelled from the day of the meeting.


The position of the International Observation Mission
In assessing the facts, the International Observation Mission believes that the prosecutor with his statements and actions demonstrated a lack of consistency and a weak position.

The Mission believe that in this situation the only serious option for the Belarusian authorities is to stop the prosecution of Ales Bialiatski as well as the pressure on other activists of the Human Rights Center Viasna. Such steps can demonstrate a commitment of the Republic of Belarus to comply with its international obligations on human rights and the rule of law. 

Reviews of previous hearings prepared by the International Observation Mission of the Committee on International Control over the Situation with Human Rights in Belarus:
Day 1 - http://www.hrwatch-by.org/en/brief-review-first-day-hearing-ales-bialiatski-s-case-trial-ales-bialiatski-has-begun-minsk
Day 2 - http://www.hrwatch-by.org/en/brief-review-second-day-hearing-case-ales-bialiatski
Day 3 - http://www.hrwatch-by.org/en/brief-review-third-day-hearing-case-ales-bialiatski
Day 4 - http://www.hrwatch-by.org/en/brief-review-fourth-day-trial-ales-bialiatski
Over the course of the process, you can also follow on Twitter the International Observation Mission in Belarus: https://twitter.com/ #!/IOMission.

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