Updated at 16:11,02-12-2016

Justice ministry tells legal expert Hary Pahanyayla that he is not under foreign travel ban

The Ministry of Justice denied in a letter sent to the prominent legal expert Hary Pahanyayla, a member of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee (BHC), that he had been placed on a foreign travel ban list, the BHC press office said on Saturday.

In its reply to Mr. Pahanyalya’s appeal to provide an explanation of the travel ban, the ministry said that it had never been imposed on him.

It, however, suggested that Mr. Pahanyala may have been placed on the list by mistake due to a "technical failure", which it said disrupted the transfer of electronic data from the ministry to the Ministry of Internal Affairs between February 24 and March 10.

After the authorities imposed a foreign travel ban on a number of political and civil society activists in early March, Mr. Pahanyayla visited a district citizenship and migration office in Minsk to be told that he was also on the list of individuals temporarily banned from leaving the country. The man was given a document reading that he had been entered in the list at the request of the justice ministry in connection with a debt collection lawsuit against him.

Mr. Pahanyayla has appealed to various agencies in an attempt to get some information about the alleged court hearing in the question, but to no avail, said the press office.

He also filed a complaint with Minsk’s Maskowski District Court, which is scheduled to hear it on June 19.

After receiving the reply from the justice ministry, Mr. Pahanyayla requested the interior ministry’s citizenship and migration office to remove him from the list, the press office added.

Speaking to reporters on March 1, a few days after the European Union imposed travel bans and asset freezes on more citizens of Belarus, Pavel Radzivonaw, a departmental chief at the Prosecutor General’s Office, said that persons calling on foreign states and international organizations to impose economic and other sanctions against Belarus might be subjected to a temporary ban on foreign travel and even to criminal prosecution.

Dozens of opposition politicians, journalists and human rights defenders have been barred from traveling abroad since then.

In an interview with a Russian TV channel in March, Alyaksandr Lukashenka said that some opposition figures were under a travel ban because they instigated the West to use sanctions against Belarus.