Trial of businesspeople coincides with Belarusian Solidarity Day
The 16th of each month is marked by Belarusians (and many in Ukraine and other countries) marks Belarusian Day in Solidarity with political prisoners and the families of disappeared opponents of the regime. 16 April coincided with the trial of opposition activists and the leaders of the business enterprise movement. As reported here, on 10 January around 5 thousand people came out onto October protesting over presidential decrees making individual business enterprise considerably more difficult. They are for example, not allowed to employ any but close relatives.
On Wednesday 10 people appeared in court. One of them (Andrei Kim) is at the same time accused of striking a traffic police officer during a repeat protest action by the business people on 21 January. The once activist has been held in custody since 31 January. In the courtroom he is held in a prisoners cage. The other defendants in T-shirts with the words “I love Belarus” and an extract from the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of assembly on their backs, took their places in the front seats. Almost all of them were under a signed undertaking not to abscond. The defendants are: Mikhail Pashkevich; Alexei Bondar; Vladimir Sergeyev; Artem Dubsky; Ales Streltsov; Andrei Chernyshev; Anton Koipish; Mikhail Krivov and Tatyana Tishkevich. Another four – Alexander Borozenko; Pavel Vinogradov; Mikhail Suboch and Maxim Dashuk – did not have time to familiarize themselves with the case material and their trial has been postponed.
From morning the court building was surrounded by police. Only a few people were allowed inside, the others await the ruling on the street. several dozen people stood there with pictures of the defendants.
Well-known politicians came to show their support, including former presidential candidate Alexander Milinkevich, the Head of the Belarusian National Front party Lavon Barshchevsky, youth leaders Pavel Severinets and Dmitry Dashkevich and others. Representatives of the OSCE and US Embassy in Minsk also came. After a while spetsnaz [Special Forces] officers tried to disperse the most active picketers, pushing them more then a kilometre from the court building.
In the first half of the day, the judge heard several of the defendants. For example, Mikhail Pashkevich explained that he had taken part in the business peoples protest not out of a wish to “get mileage” out of this theme as the Head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Vladimr Naumov suggested, but because it directly affects his family – his parents were forced out of medicine and into small business. Mikhail Krivov stated that his participation in the action had in no way violated the Constitution. Vladimir Sergeyev refused to give testimony at all, saying that he considered the trial and the whole criminal proceedings unlawful and politically motivated.