The Belarusian Association of Human Rights Lawyers Has Issued a Statement on the Verdict Handed Down to Attorney Yulia Yurgilevich

The Belarusian Association of Human Rights Lawyers has released a statement condemning the verdict handed down to attorney Yulia Yurgilevich. We would like to remind you that on July 26, Yulia was found guilty under Part 2 of Article 361-4 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus for “[providing] other assistance to extremist activities committed repeatedly by a group of individuals by prior agreement.”

According to the case materials, Yulia Yurgilevich purportedly shared information with Pavel Mozheyko concerning the revocation of her lawyer's license, as well as details about the consideration of a criminal case against Ales Pushkin. Pavel allegedly published this information on the Be**at website. The verdict was issued by the Grodno Regional Court (Judge M. Filatov).

The Belarusian Association of Human Rights Lawyers, in its statement, highlights the absurdity of the accusation. The statement asserts that in accordance with the Constitution and international legal agreements ratified by the Republic of Belarus, every individual holds the right to freedom of expression. Furthermore, aligned with the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, attorneys, like any other citizens, possess the rights to freedom of expression, beliefs, and assembly.

The act of informing someone about the revocation of a license or a court session (information readily available in open sources and not subject to dissemination restrictions) cannot constitute a criminal offense. Charges of this nature do not serve any legitimate purpose but are solely intended to intimidate attorneys, curtail their interactions with journalists, and coerce them into eschewing any publicity in their professional pursuits.

Moreover, the Belarusian Association of Human Rights Lawyers calls attention to the inaction of the Belarusian Republican Bar Association and the Grodno Regional Bar Association, including their failure to uphold procedural norms and even the minimum standards for conducting court proceedings. During the court session, Yulia Yurgilevich was dressed in a prison uniform labeled 'Isolation Ward No. 2.' Holding the accused in a courtroom in a prison uniform and in a cage violates the presumption of innocence and constitutes a breach of the Constitution of Belarus and international legal agreements, particularly Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

During the hearing, Yulia asserted that she had not been granted access to the criminal case before the trial, which is a violation of Article 14-3b of the Covenant. Even after this statement, the court did not afford the accused the opportunity to prepare for her defense.

The Belarusian Association of Human Rights Lawyers urgently demands the release of Yulia Yurgilevich from custody and the cessation of criminal prosecution against her.

The Right to Defense Project joins this statement and deems it unacceptable to prosecute attorneys for carrying out their professional duties.
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