The preliminary investigation into the criminal case was accompanied with serious process violations of the convicts’ rights, including: arbitrary detention, violations of the terms and procedures of detention established by the Criminal-Process Code of the Republic of Belarus (CPC), violation of the right to defense, and violation of the presumption of innocence. The detention of I.Alinevich in Moscow and his transportation to the KGB pre-trial prison in Minsk were accompanied with violations of legal procedures including the procedure of extradition of Belarusian citizens to Belarus from the Russian Federation.
During the trial, I.Alinevich, M.Dziadok and A.Frantskevich stated that unlawful methods were used towards them during the preliminary investigation, including psychological pressurization and torture. Several witnesses, who refused from the testimonies given during the preliminary investigation, also stated about the use of torture towards them.
The principle of the equality of sides in the presentation of evidence was ignored during the trial, which had a negative impact on the objectivity and impartiality of the court proceedings.
In such circumstances the Human Rights Center Viasna states that: gross violations of the convicts’ rights give reasons to think that the trial wasn’t objective and impartial, and the issued verdicts are groundless and unlawful;
violations of rights of the convicts make it impossible to consider them as lawfully convicted;
the verdicts that were issued in such circumstances must be abolished and reviewed.
The preliminary investigation into this case was accompanied with grave process violations including:
Arbitrary detentions and violations of legal procedures.
The investigation committed gross violations of process rights of the accused since the initiation of the case. On 3 September 2010 about 50 people were detained all over the country. The main reason for the detention was not existence of sufficient grounds, determined by the CPC, but their membership in civil movements, mainly of ecological and anarchist nature. The detentions were conducted with violations of the terms that are determined by the CPC. The unlawful procedure of “re-detention” was used towards some of the detainees: they weren’t released after three days of detention – a new detention report was composed against each detainee instead of it. In particular, M.Dziadok was detained 7 times (and spent a total of 21 days in detention), and the majority of the detainees were detained 3 times (and spent 9 days in detention).
The accused Ihar Alinevich was forcibly kidnapped in Moscow by representatives of unidentified secret services and taken to the pre-trial prison of the KGB in Minsk. His detention was conducted with violation of the established procedures, including the procedure of extradition of Belarusian citizens from the Russian Federation.
This practice witnesses that unlawful and arbitrary detentions were used towards the accused. It is a gross violation of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, ratified by the Republic of Belarus.
Right to defense
As a result of the practice of “re-detention” during which each new detention was conducted by another organ of preliminary investigation, the accused were often deprived of the possibility to exercise their right to legal defense. The counsels were unable to receive any information about the location of their clients for several days. Neither were they able to find which investigation organ was responsible for the investigation at a concrete period of time.
For instance, A.Frantskevich’s counsel didn’t receive any information about his client and meet with him for three days. I.Alinevich was also deprived of the right to legal defense during his detention by representatives of unidentified secret services in Moscow and transportation to Belarus. As a result, he had no opportunity to appeal his detention.
Meanwhile, the CPC guarantees the right to access to legal defense within 24 hours since the moment of detention. These circumstances witness that the defendants’ right to legal defense was grossly violated, despite the guarantees provided by Article 62 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus and the ICCPR.
Psychological pressurization, tortures, cruel and inhuman treatment
During the court hearings, I.Alinevich, M.Dziadok and A.Frantskevich stated about psychological pressurization and tortures, demands to confess their guilt and give false testimonies against other people. Such actions of the investigation were also confirmed by the witnesses Ihar Bahachyk, Aliaksandr Buhayou, Kseniya Kauko, Anton Novikau, Siarhei Sliusar, Aliaksei Zhynherouski and Dzianis Bystryk (whose testimony wasn’t read in the court).
In particular, M.Dziadok stated that the investigation had threatened him with psychical lynching, trouble in the prison cell and in the prison where he would serve his term. He also called the surname of one of the police officers – lieutenant colonel Yaroshyn. Aliaksandr Frantskevich stated that the investigation had forced him to confess his guilt and give false testimony against others, threatening with a large prison term otherwise. Ihar Alinevich told how he had been kidnapped from Moscow: he had been transported in handcuffs for one day and a cap had been pulled on his eyes during a part of the travel.
At the very beginning, he wasn’t interrogated at the pre-trial prison of the KGB. Instead, he was forced to confess his guilt and subject to psychological pressurization by means of improvised telephone calls to his grandmother in the night time. Aliaksei Zhynherouski (a witness, who used to be an accused for quite a long time) was threatened with a long prison term and problems in the family and at the place of study. He was interrogated at the KGB without having any counsel, and was threatened that he wouldn’t be let out.
The investigators shouted on witness Kseniya Kauko during an interrogation that lasted for one day, trying to make her give a false testimony against M.Dziadok. Witness Ihar Bahatchyk also stated about pressurization on the part of the KGB and the Main Bureau of counteraction to organized crime. He was forced to give a false testimony against M.Dziadok, was threatened with problems at the places of work of study, and trouble at the places of work of his parents (who were summonsed to interrogations as well). He was also threatened with sexual harassment in the prison in Akrestsin Street.
While interrogating convict Aliaksandr Buhayou in Revaliutsyinaya Street, investigator Litvinski hit him with a truncheon in face and patella. Threats were also used towards witness Siarhei Sliusar. Witness Anton Novik also told about process violations and pressurization on the part of the investigation. All aforementioned people spent some time in detention.
The accused M.Dziadok and A.Frantskevich had serious health problems. Nevertheless, they were kept in custody for a long time, and received untimely and insufficient medical aid.
These facts raise doubts in the reliability of the testimonies given by the convicts and the witnesses during the preliminary investigation, whose materials became the basis for the accusative court verdicts.
Violation of the principle of equality of sides on presentation of evidence at the trial
The principle of the equality of sides in presentation of evidence wasn’t observed to a full extent during the court proceedings. Substantial motions of the defense, including motions for the interrogation of witnesses, were often dismissed by the court, which had a negative impact on the objectivity of the trial and witnessed its accusative bias.
According to human rights defenders, a part of the charges which served as the basis for the accusative verdicts, don’t contain corpus delicti. It concerns the episode, incriminated to I.Alinevich, M.Dziadok and A.Frantskevich, that concerned the protest rally held on 19 September 2009 near the General Staff of the armed forces of the Republic of Belarus. During the rally, a smoke pot was thrown to the territory of the General Staff. This unauthorized rally was essentially peaceful and was aimed at expression of protest against the joint Russian-Belarusian military training that were held in Belarus at that time. Though throwing of the smoke pot to the territory of the General Staff contained corpus delicti of an offense, it didn’t present any danger to life and health of citizens, didn’t lead to disorganization of the work of this institution and didn’t inflict any material damage. According to our opinion, these actions of the convicts do not constitute corpus delicti of any offense punishable by the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus (CC).
On 24 May 2010 the Zavadski District Court of Minsk considered the criminal case of I.Alinevich (charged on 5 episodes under Article 339, part of the CC, “hooliganism, committed by a group of individuals, and Article 218, parts 2 and 3 of the CC, “damage of property in a generally dangerous way and in an especially large scale”), M.Dziadok (charged on 3 episodes, under Article 339, part 2 and 218, part 2), A.Frantskevich (charged on 4 episodes under Article 339, part 2, Article 218, part 2, Article 349, part 2, “unauthorized access to computer information”, Article 351, “computer sabotage, accompanied with unauthorized access to a computer system” and Article 354, “creation, use or distribution of harmful software”), Ya.Silivonchyk (charged on 1 episode in Salihorsk under under Article 339, part 2 and Article 218, part 2) and M.Vetkin (charged on 2 episodes under Article 339, part 2 and Article 218, part 3).
On 27 May 2011, according to the announced verdict:
Ihar Alinevich was sentenced to 8 years in a medium-security colony with confiscation of his car;
Mikalai Dziadok – to 3 years in in a medium-security colony;
Yauhen Silivonchyk – 1.5 years of personal restraint;
Maksim Vetkin – to 4 years of personal restraint.
Charges under Article 218, part 2 of the Criminal Code were dropped in a number of accusative episodes. The charges of assault on the delinquents’ isolation center on 6 September 2010 were removed as well.