The “Viasna” Trial: Days 2 — 5

The trial of Nobel laureate Ales Bialiatski and human rights activists Vladimir Labkovich, Valentin Stefanovich and Dzmitry Solovyou continues. By the way, the interests of Dmitry Solovyov, who is being tried in absentia by special procedure, are represented by a lawyer appointed by the investigation. Dmitriy notes that he does not know the lawyer's name or gender.

At the last hearing, the charges were read out; none of the defendants pleaded guilty. The order of the trial was set out: to question witnesses immediately, then examine the written case materials and, if necessary, material evidence, and finally question the human rights defenders themselves.

January 6th

On 6 January the interrogation of witnesses continued in court: Vasily Zdaniuk, editor-in-chief of Svobodnye Novosti Plus, was questioned. At the trial he told the court that he received money from Alena Laptenok for publishing articles, authored by employees of the Human Rights Center. The witness was shown the receipts according to which he had received over two thousand euros, to which the witness was astonished and indignant claiming that he had never received such sums. Since the editor-in-chief of the Novy Chas newspaper Oksana Kolb could not be questioned in court in person, as she had to leave Belarus because of persecution, her testimony, given at the investigation, was made public.

On the second day of the trial the human rights defender Aleh Matskevich and former Viasna employee Maryna Statkevich were interrogated. During the questioning in court they were asked about the money brought into Belarus, the activity of the Lithuanian organization Pavasaris (lit. “spring”), the structure of the organization, the payment for election observation. From Maryna’s interrogation conducted by prosecutor:

— What can you say about Ales Bialiatski (question in the context of who the leader is)?

— Ales Bialiatski, he's... our everything!

January 10th

On 10 January four witnesses were questioned and the testimonies of three of them were read out as they failed to appear in court. At the beginning of the trial Vladimir Labkovich filed a motion to postpone the trial for medical reasons.
The Judge Zapasnik has left to the deliberation room in order to find out about the state of health of the human rights defender, as no medical certificates from the pre-trial detention facility could be submitted to the court. In the end, the judge contacted the staff of the detention facility and decided that Vladimir could take part in the trial. The detention facility staff reported that as of Tuesday morning "the state of health of V. Labkovich is satisfactory, he can take part in the hearing". The court session continued. We shall remind you that in his release letters Vladimir Labkovich complained of the health worsening during the whole year and a half of his detention, namely about constant headaches, insomnia and reduced vision. After the lunch break Vladimir Labkovich complained of feeling ill again. He demanded that an ambulance be called if the trial won’t be suspended, which was done. The doctors examined the political prisoner and established that he could take part in the trial.

At the session, Ales Bialiatski suggested swapping writing utensils with the prosecutor due to being in unequal conditions with him: the prosecutor had a laptop and a pen, and the human rights defender only had a pen refill.

January 11th

None of the witnesses have been questioned in person. For various reasons, but mainly due to them being abroad. At the trial, their testimonies given during the investigation were read out. Among them, for example, the testimony of the Mogilev human rights defender Boris Bukhel. In addition, the judge reviewed the records of interrogation of two witnesses with changed names. One of them was "Karpovich". At the first sitting Valentin Stefanovich insisted that she was Alena Krasouskaya, who writes articles for the state-controlled newspaper "SB" about the Viasna trial, and asked to remove her from the courtroom. The judge did not satisfy the human rights defender's request, as it was allegedly only his supposition. She didn't even read out “Karpovich’s” testimony “in order to guarantee the safety of witness”.

January 12th

The judge did read out the testimonies of the classified witnesses. Also on January 12th, customs officials were questioned. A specialist of the Customs Committee stated in court that two million dollars had allegedly been imported to Belarus from 2011 to 2021 in the interests of the Human Rights Center "Viasna". Criminal liability for importing cash on a large scale without declaration was introduced in Belarus only in 2016, so the criminal case for this period covers about 250 thousand dollars. According to the human rights defenders, it is clear from the testimony of the customs officers that these amounts were dictated to them by other structures. It is not known where these figures came from and how the prosecutor's office will confirm them.
Made on