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

November 4, 2011 in Minsk was the third session of the court case of Viasna head and Vice President of FIDH Ales Bialiatski. Reviews of previous meetings can be found here: http://hrwatch-by.org/en/brief-review-first-day-hearing-ales-bialiatski-s-case-trial-ales-bialiatski-has-begun-minsk and here http://hrwatch-by.org/en/brief-review-second-day-hearing-case-ales-bialiatski over the course of the process, you can also follow the International Observation Mission in Belarus here on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/IOMission.

In this session, the court studied the written submissions to the case. According to the results, the International Observation Mission emphasizes the presence of excessive restrictions to free access to the courts for those wishing to enter the process, even in comparison to previous days.

The beginning of the hearing

The start the day is traditionally marked by checking people to see if they are wearing Ales T-shirts. Olga Salomatova, the representative of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Warsaw) - a participating organization of the International observation mission of the Committee on international control over the situation with Human Rights in Belarus, describes the procedure for entering the courtroom as follows: "The procedure to enter the courthouse and the courtroom to attend the Ales Bialiatski process is different from the procedure for those who come to court in other cases. At the entrance to the building there is a metal detector through which anyone who goes to the Bialiatski case passes through, excluding only those who are attending other trials. Then an officer in plain clothes copies passport data. At the same time, all bags and coats are inspected; 80% of the people are subjected to a personal search (a police officer "feels" with his hands, if there is something under your clothes). At the entrance to the courtroom you again pass through a metal detector; someone in plain clothes checks again the contents of bags and people are additionally checked with hand metal detectors. Before entering the room, people must present themselves, and their names are also recorded or checked against a previously prepared list (if one is already present on that day and returns after the break). It is impossible to identify the people dressed in plain clothes who are carrying out the searches because they do not provide identification."

Before the start of the session there was a conflict, after which people were not allowed into the process. At around 10:00 at the entrance, Natalia Mankovskaya (Deputy Chairman of Human Rights Project GeyBelarus) was detained in connection with her ‘Freedom for Ales Bialiatski’ T-shirt: Mankovskaya demanded clarification on who instituted the ban as well as a book for comments and suggestions. Reasoned explanations are not followed and the book she was not provided. Instead, several men in civilian clothes removed Mankovskaya by force from the courthouse, explaining that she was preventing the passage of people inside. According to Mankovskaya, she was taken to the police department of the Moscow district, where she was kept without explanation in a common room for 3 hours. After this time, Mankovskaya received a verbal explanation from Oleg Begunok - that an appearance in court in the T-shirt with a portrait of Ales was seen as a demonstration. района, где продержали без объяснений в общей комнате 3 часа.

The study of written material

In examining the documents the prosecutor read out a letter with the data from the Lithuanian bank NORD in Russian translation and printed statements provided by the Polish Bank Śląski presented by the attorney general of Poland. The data suggests that Bialiatski received funds from foreign human rights organizations which he transferred to Belarusian human rights activists.

Meanwhile, as noted earlier, the Minister of Justice of Lithuania, Remigijus Shimashyus said yesterday that information on Bialiatski's accounts sent from the Lithuanian side could not serve as evidence in court.

The lawyer offered his comments on the quality of the translation of documents. As before, the investigation did not determine what amounts may be considered Bialiatski's. In addition, the removal of money from Bialiatski's accounts was not evidence that the money was his income, announced the defense.

Then Bialiatski's tax returns, a copy of his employment record and work contracts were presented. The prosecutor listed the materials seized during the search of Bialiatski's house: hard drives, laptop, floppy disks, DVD-drives, phone, business cards, documents and money in different currencies, as well items confiscated from the office of Viasna: letters, statements, copies of receipts, airline tickets. The lawyer objected to the seizure of Bialiatski's property as it was shared between he and his wife, and demanded the execution of the problem due to the prosecutor's office to present property status of Bialiatski, the sources of his money, the goals of using this money and make it clear whether carrying Beliatski money across the border, because this information is the subject of interest for the defense .

The third, fourth and fifth volumes of the criminal case are actually the result of a public campaign in support of Ales because they consist almost entirely of guarantees for the human rights defender and the consequences of failure to satisfy them. The prosecutor read out selectively one of the petitions signed by a group of 816 people.

The next step was to familiarize the court with the ruling on the detention of human rights defenders in the sixth volume of the case. At this resolution Bialiatski hand wrote: "I do not agree with my detention, I do not consider myself guilty."

During the presentation of papers excerpts from personal correspondence with human rights defender Vladimir Labkovich were presented which discussed the position with regard to Bialiatski's foreign accounts. The prosecution presented these as an attempt to hide the truth and confuse the investigation and trial. Proceedings of the correspondence have been attached to the criminal case.

The lawyer drew the attention of the court to the defense's petition that the aims of the money transfers to human rights defenders be factored, but the request was ignored. In addition, the lawyer said that the operational-investigative activities, which resulted in the seizure of 27 000 files having been found in computer files and hard drives belonging Bialiatski, as well as the discs itself were unsanctioned.

The lawyer also read his previous petition, which essentially boiled down to the evidence not establishing the defendant's guilt. In particular, the purpose of the money in Bialiatski's account is not established. In this regard, the lawyer asked the investigator to suspend the case, but was refused.

After this, the prosecutor said that the documents held by the customs committee involving Bialiatski's border-crossing declarations would be presented only next Thursday. The court was adjourned until November 10.


Comment of the International Observation Mission:

Director of the Institute of Human Rights and representative of the International Observation Mission in Belarus Valentin Gefter expressed his extreme concern at the trial of Ales Bialiatski: "The state, rather than to provide conditions for human rights activities, on the contrary, openly prevents this. Now, defenders have to defend each other, rather than provide primary care to those who really need it." He noted that the purpose of the trial is clearly a politically motivated prosecution, and rated the process biased. According to Gefter, the outcome of the trial cannot be predicted, "especially since it is just in the middle." At the same time the human rights defender hopes, if not for an acquittal, then at least for an indictment without a real prison sentence.

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