Case Against Awtukhovich Goes to Supreme Court
The criminal case against Vawkavysk entrepreneur Mikalay Awtukhovich and his associate Uladzimir Asipenka was referred to the Supreme Court on December 30, almost 11 months after their arrest.
When reached by BelaPAN, Mr. Awtukhovich's lawyer, Pavel Sapelka, said that a date for the trial had yet to be set. "The circle of witnesses in the Awtukhovich case should be determined and the opening court session's date will become known soon," he said.
In November 2009, Messrs. Awtukhovich and Asipenka were charged with preparations for an act of terrorism in addition to the previously brought charges of perpetrating a series of arsons and explosions targeting the property of local officials in Vawkavysk, Hrodna region.
Mr. Awtukhovich, his former business partner Yury Lyavonaw and Mr. Asipenka were arrested by personnel of the Almaz anti-terror police unit in armed raids in their hometown of Vawkavysk on February 8.
After 10 days, they were formally charged with "deliberate destruction of or damage to property caused in a way dangerous to the public or the intentional infliction of large-scale damage," under Article 218 of the Criminal Code.
The interior ministry announced in July that on June 23, Mr. Awtukhovich was charged with making preparations a few years ago for murdering Uladzimir Sawchanka, chairman of the Hrodna Regional Executive Committee, and Deputy Tax Minister Vasil Kamyanko.
Mr. Lyavonaw was released on his own recognizance in early August. On September 24, he was notified that all charges against him had been dropped.
The 46-year-old Awtukhovich staged a hunger strike between April 16 and July 16, protesting his detention and demanding that the case should be either referred to court or all those under investigation in the case should be released on their own recognizance.
Messrs. Awtukhovich and Lyavonaw earlier served 18 months in prison for alleged tax evasion and illegal business activities. They were both granted an early release in January 2008.
Mr. Awtukhovich insisted that he had been sent to prison because he had protested authorities’ arbitrary rule. Amnesty International then declared him and Mr. Lyavonaw prisoners of conscience.
Mr. Awtukhovich, a veteran of the USSR’s Afghanistan war and a holder of three combat medals, was among civil society activists who petitioned the government in January to restore state benefits for the veterans of the war. Mr. Awtukhovich refused to accept a jubilee medal that the Belarusian government distributed to Afghanistan veterans on the occasion of 20 years since the withdrawal of the Soviet troops from that country.
In 2004, Mr. Awtukhovich unsuccessfully ran for Parliament.