Police in Minsk Search Office of Newspaper Narodnaya Volya
Police in Minsk on Wednesday afternoon raided the office of the pro-opposition newspaper Narodnaya Volya to search the workplace of journalist Maryna Koktysh for what they called material related to the high-profile "hunting" case.
The police produced a search warrant and ordered the staff to switch off their mobile phones.
The search lasted around an hour. The officers seized the system unit of Ms. Koktysh`s personal computer and her printed material.
Andrey Bastunets, lawyer at the Belarusian Association of Journalists, told BelaPAN that a defamation case had been initiated upon the application of one police official accused in the "hunting" case.
In the criminal case in question, four high-ranking police officials were charged and put on trial last year.
Three senior police officials in the Homyel region and Viktar Yermakow, chief of the interior ministry’s Main Department for Fight against Corruption and Economic Crime, were charged with abuse of power. Their closed-door trial began at the Supreme Court on October 12, 2009.
Mr. Yermakow is accused of giving an illegal order to the other three officials to gather discreditable information about KGB staff. The three officials, for their part, are accused of breaking the law by working to unearth compromising facts about some of the Committee’s officers.
Days before his arrest last April, one of the police officials charged in the case, Alyaksandr Malayew, recorded a video appeal to Alyaksandr Lukashenka. In the video clip posted on the Internet after his arrest, he said that KGB officers had paid people to offer bribes to police officers of various levels.
Mr. Malayew, who headed the Homyel regional police department’s Corruption and Economic Crime Unit, said that KGB staff also resorted to blackmail and threats against people who refused to give false testimony against officers of his unit.
The case made headlines after Mr. Lukashenka publicly accused Leanid Minenkow, another officer currently on trial, of building illegal hunting lodges in the Zhlobin district that accommodated top law enforcers and company executives.
"Big police chiefs, the heads of major enterprises and top officials of the Homyel region hunted so that a probe had to be carried out within the framework of a criminal case," he said.
At a government conference last June, Mr. Lukashenka accused Mr. Minenkow, then chief of the Zhlobin district police department’s Corruption and Economic Crime Unit, of "organizing conditions for hunting, fishing and something else."
Mr. Lukashenka said that the police official had purchased a two-hectare land plot through a dummy buyer, building 14 structures and buying 29 hunting dogs and three wild boars. According to the Belarusian leader, the place catered to high-ranking officials and company managers, including those representing the Zhlobin-based Belarusian Steel Works.
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