Updated at 01:25,03-03-2021

German law expert defends detention of Vawkavysk dissidents in report


A German law expert has drawn up a report describing the months-long detention of three Vawkavysk opponents of the government as legal and denying any political motives behind the controversial criminal case, human rights defender Aleh Volchak told BelaPAN.

Mikalay Awtukhovich, Uladzimir Asipenka and Yury Lyavonaw have been held in custody since February, with many describing the criminal case against them as the government’s revenge for their political stance.

The report, written by University of Passau Professor Martin Fincke who stayed in Minsk between June 8 and 10 at the invitation of the Belarusian government, has been distributed among members of the European Parliament and European Union officials, according to Mr. Volchak. "No one knew about the German expert’s visit - neither Awtukhovich, nor his lawyer, nor other suspects, nor their relatives. I learned about this from my Western colleagues who asked me as to whether I had read the report," he said. The report claims that the investigation of the case has not been marred by any irregularities and denies that the case is politically motivated.

Mr. Volchak described Dr. Fincke’s visit as "alarming," noting that even the suspects’ lawyers had no access to some materials of the case. Under Belarus’ regulations, only the suspect, victim, prosecutor, investigator and defense counsel may study case files. "I believe that some deal has been struck with this legal expert," Mr. Volchak said.

When reached by BelaPAN on Thursday, Belarus’ law enforcement agencies declined comment on the report.

Messrs. Awtukhovich, Lyavonaw and Asipenka were apprehended in armed raids in their hometown of Vawkavysk, Hrodna region, on February 8. Police said that they were suspected of perpetrating a series of arsons and explosions targeting the property of local officials and of illegal possession of explosives and firearms.

On February 18, 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."

In June, Mr. Awtukhovich was declared a suspect in a case against a certain Laryn, who was accused of possession of a grenade launcher and a homemade explosive device.

The interior ministry announced last week 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.