Updated at 23:19,25-10-2016

Trial over Mikalai Autukhovich and Uladzimir Asipenka

10-03-2010, 12:24

The trial over political prisoners, who have spent more than a year in jail, started in the Supreme Court of Belarus (28 Lenin Str) at 10:00 a.m.

Belarusian human right activists think there are no grounds to consider the case of Vaukavysk businessmen Mikalai Autukhovich and Uladzimir Asipenka in the Supreme Court. The authorities chose it on purpose, in order the defendants not to be able to appeal against judgments of the Supreme Court.

"The case of the political prisoners is going to be heard in the court after a year after their detention. We had a hope the case will be considered by the Hrodna or Minsk region courts. The Supreme Court considers cases of high ranking officials; it also can choose the cases to consider. But we know that it wasnt an initiative of the Supreme Court, but an order of the Prosecutor General. Proceedings in another court would allow appealing against judgements. A decision of the Supreme Court is final, so this derogate from the rights of the businessmen," human rights activist Aleh Vouchak told in an interview to charter97.org.

The human rights defender notes that the court didnt allow Autukhovich and Asipenkas lawyers to make copies of the materials of the case.

"We knew that the only witnesses in the case are two persons, but the prosecution decided to call al witnesses for unknown reasons. They cannot give any evidence in the case. Interrogation of witnesses by court takes weeks. The process is being dragged out intentionally. The investigation apparently wants to show that the year wasnt spent in vain. I remind that there were some motions to close the criminal case, but Prosecutor General Vasilevich didnt respond to them.

A lot of diplomats, human rights activists, common citizens can present at the trial in the Supreme Court on March 10. The Ministry of Internal Affairs promised in public that the trial would be open. Well see. We dont expect acquittal. These people should have been released a year ago and received official apologies. Our aim is to demonstrate our solidarity, come to court and record all violations committed by the court and investigation,"
Aleh Vouchak said.

The human rights activist is sure that Autukhovich and Asipenka are political prisoners. "These people are prisoners of conscience. What were they arrested for? To continue intimidating of active citizens. The regime of Lukashenka cant exist without political prisoners it needs something to trade with Europe," Aleh Vouchak thinks.

Businessmen from Vaukavysk Mikalai Autukhovich, Yury Lyavonau, and Uladzimir Asipenka , who have always defended their rights actively, were arrested on February 8, 2009. On February 18, the entrepreneurs were charged under article 218 of the Criminal Code (intentional damage to or destruction of property of citizens). On June 23, a criminal case under article 359 of the Criminal Code (a terroristic act) in the form of preparation (article 13) was instigated against Autukhovich and "other persons". They are accused of attempt on the life of regional high-ranking officials. Later, Yury Lyavonau was released and cleared from all charges.

The influential Human Rights Watch recognized the Vaukavysk businessmen and arrested participant of the Process of 14 Artsyom Dubski political prisoners.