Co-organizer of 'Narodny Skhod' rallies receives warning from Prosecutor General's Office
Viktar Ivashkevich, one of the two organizers of the "Narodny Skhod" (People`s Assembly) opposition rallies held across the country on October 8, has received a warning from the Prosecutor General’s Office over plans to hold a fresh series of them on November 12.
An officer of the Prosecutor General’s Office phoned Mr. Ivashkevich on Thursday to tell him to visit the office to be served with a written warning against violating the Mass Events Law.
Mr. Ivashkevich said that he was ill, and the officer replied that the warning would be sent to him by mail.
"As legal experts say, this warning is null and void, because we have no intention to do anything under the Mass Events Law," Mr. Ivashkevich commented to BelaPAN. "We will act in accordance with the National and Local Assemblies Law."
The new Narodny Skhod rally in Minsk will also be held in People`s Friendship Park in Bangalore Square. Its purpose is to discuss the authorities’ response to a resolution adopted at the previous rally and delivered to the Council of Ministers on October 12. According to Mr. Ivashkevich, the organizers received only “cops-out” in response to the resolution, which laid out a number of economic and political demands. The cabinet said that the economic crisis was to blame for the deteriorating living standards of the population, suggesting forwarding the answer to the rally participants, he said.
The other Narodny Skhod organizer, Henadz Fyadynich, chairman of the Union of Electronic Industry Workers, told BelaPAN on Friday that he had not yet received any warnings from the Prosecutor General’s Office.
"But a departmental chief at the office phoned me to ask what the Union of Electronic Industry Workers had to do with the Narodny Skhod rallies. I replied that the union had nothing to do with it, while some of its activists were directly involved in the campaign," said Mr. Fyadynich. "There the conversation dropped."
The Narodny Skhod rallies were held in Minsk, Polatsk, Navapolatsk, Babruysk, Homyel, Vileyka, Orsha, Baranavichy, Vitsyebsk, Mahilyow and Zhlobin. Their participants adopted resolutions calling on the authorities to stop the rise in prices of staple foods, medicines and essential goods and services; raise salaries, wages, pensions and allowances in proportion to the inflation rate; index people’s rubel deposits to compensate them for their losses caused by this year’s depreciation of the national currency; create the opportunity for people to freely buy foreign cash and allow foreign currency loans to be repaid with Belarusian rubels; abolish the system of fixed-term employment contracts; create favorable conditions for businesses; release and exonerate all political prisoners; and conduct free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections.
A number of opposition activists were arrested before the Nardony Skhod rallies and so were a dozen during the events. After them, Messrs. Ivashkevich and Fyadynich were sentenced to a fine of 1.4 million rubels ($165) each on a charge of organizing an unauthorized demonstration. Several local organizers were fined as well for allegedly violating the Mass Events Law.
The authorities consider the rallies illegal, saying that the organizers should have applied for permission for them as required by the Mass Events Law. The organizers, however, insist that they held the rallies under the National and Local Assemblies Law and no authorization for them was necessary.
Under the National and Local Assemblies Law, a local assembly at the level of a city, neighborhood, street or house may be initiated by at least two individuals if at least 10 percent of residents have added their signatures in support of holding such an event.
The law does not require authorities to be notified of the assembly or signatures to be submitted to them for verification or registration.