Updated at 13:48,15-08-2017

Haydukow sentenced to 18 months in prison

By Tanya Korovenkova, BelaPAN

A judge of the Vitsyebsk Regional Court on Monday sentenced young opposition activist Andrey Haydukow to one and a half years in a low-security correctional institution.

Judge Halina Urbanovich found the 23-year-old Haydukow guilty of attempting to "establish contacts with foreign intelligence agencies without signs of high treason," an offense penalized under Appendix One to Article 356 of the Criminal Code, Vitsyebsk-based opposition activist Tatsyana Sevyarynets told BelaPAN.

The parents and the sister of Mr. Haydukow as well as officers of the British embassy in Minsk and representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were allowed to attend the final court session to hear the judge pronounce her decision, Ms. Sevyarynets said.

Mr. Haydukow’s lawyer said that he would file an appeal against the sentence.

According to a human rights organization called Vyasna (Spring), Article 356 was added to the Criminal Code in November 2011 and should not provide for custodial sentences because it penalizes an offense that does not pose a serious public threat.

Belarusian human rights defenders have repeatedly criticized recent amendments to the Criminal Code, noting that they were too ambiguous.

Prosecutor General Alyaksandr Kanyuk told reporters on Friday that the high treason charge against Mr. Haydukow had been replaced with another one.

Mr. Kanyuk refused to say what charge the 23-year-old opposition activist was facing and only revealed that the public prosecutor in his case had demanded two years for the accused.

The high treason charge carries penalties ranging from up to 15 years in prison to the death sentence.

Andrey Haydukow, a fifth-year student at the chemical engineering and technology department of Polatsk State University and a fitter in charge of instrumentation at the Naftan oil refinery in Navapolatsk, was arrested in Vitsyebsk on November 8, 2012. He was taken to the detention center of the Committee for State Security (KGB) in Minsk and charged with spying.

KGB spokesman Alyaksandr Antanovich announced on November 13 that Mr. Haydukow had "gathered and passed political and economic information on the instructions of a foreign intelligence agency," and that he had been caught in the act of making a dead drop.

Mr. Haydukow, an activist of an unregistered organization called the Union of Young Intellectuals, said in a letter that he was suspected of offering to gather sensitive information about Belarus for the US Central Intelligence Agency.

According to him, the KGB claims that his activities could cause damage to the national security of Belarus and describes them as an attempt to undermine the constitutional system of Belarus and impose a policy that does not meet its national interests. The KGB accuses him of trying to destabilize the social and political situation in Belarus and seeking financial assistance from the CIA through the US embassy in Minsk.

KGB chief Valery Vakulchyk announced in late May that the case against Mr. Haydukow would be held in the Vitsyebsk Regional Court behind closed doors.

General Vakulchyk said that he would not go into detail about the case, but noted that the "defenders" of the accused would change their mind after the trial.

The trial began on June 12.