Belarus: Second day of Ales Bialiatski trial
The trial of Ales Bialiatski, Head of the Viasna Human Rights Centre and Vice-Director of the International Federation for Human Rights on charges of tax evasion continued at the Moskovsky District Court in Minsk. The presiding judge is Sergei Bondarenko.
The lawyer’s application for the Viasna Human Rights Centre’s charter to be added to the case material was granted. The defence also showed material indicating the organization’s activities, which were also added to the case. A book in Swedish was also presented to the court, this containing an article by Bialiatski. The fee for this was transferred to his bank account and is mentioned in the bank papers. At the defence’s request, the book “Building Bridges…” (Vilnius, 2010 which Viasna published, together with a manual for organizing human rights schools, were added. Ales Bialiatski had explained on Wednesday that money from the bank accounts had gone to pay for publication of these books.
The first prosecution witness was Leanid Chauko, Deputy Chairman of the humanitarian activities department of the Presidential Administration. Then Anzhalika Sobaleva, from the tax inspectorate of the Pershamaiski District of Minsk was questioned. She said that she had Bialiatski as a taxpayer since 2008, and claimed that she was not aware of the testimony given by others. The defence asked why her answers were identical to those given by her boss, with even the same grammatical mistakes.
Bialiatski asked her about the words in foreign languages in the bank document graphs. She said that she could see where the money came from but could not read them correctly. She assumed them to be the names of banks.
The head of the board of the SWIFT international payment system of the National Bank of Belarus was questioned, then another person from the tax inspectorate.
Human rights defender Barys Zvoskau was questioned next. He was asked whether he had any bank accounts abroad. He said no, and that he didn’t remember if Bialiatski had transferred any money for him. He denied that 8 thousand EUR had been transferred to him and said the information was fabrication.
Andrei Paluda from Bialynichy, who testified in Belarusian, answered most questions by citing his right to not testify against himself, but did say that he had received money from Bialiatski for human rights activities. He stressed that neither he nor Bialiatski had had any profit from the money.
The following is from the English site:
Human rights defender Tatsiana Raviaka says she has known Ales Bialiatski for 20 years and worked with him in Maksim Bahdanovich museum and at the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, has friendly relations with him.
She states that she didn’t receive any money in “Viasna”, but received financial means for human rights activities from Bialiatski. She refuses to tell the sums and to speak about foreign bank accounts. The prosecutor shows her a print-out with her surname. “The spelling of the surname differs from the spelling in my passport. Maybe it’s someone else?” assumes Tatsiana.
The questioning of Viktar Sazonau from Hrodna begins. The human rights defender also refers to Article 27 of the Constitution which gives the right not to testify against oneself. Sazonau says he didn’t receive any reward for his work in “Viasna”, just money for human rights activities. “Neither Bialiatski, nor I received any profit from this money”, says Mr. Sazonau.
Witness Aliaksei Kolchyn, an entrepreneur from Mahiliou, a member of the Mahiliou Human Rights Center, is interrogated. He refuses to tell anything about foreign accounts, financial transfers and journeys abroad with Ales Bialitski. The prosecutor shows him Xerox copies of receipts signed by Kolchyn. The latter refuses to explain anything, referring to Article 27 of the Constitution. Bialiatski’s counsel declares a protest, saying that the way the receipts were acquired is unknown.
The following witness is Bialiatski’s wife, Natallia Pinchuk. She refuses to testify referring to her right not to do it.
Alena Laptsionak is interrogated. At first the police refused to let her in the court hall, as she was wearing a T-shirt with the inscription “Freedom to Bialiatski!” Alena has known Bialiatski since 1987. “We have engaged in human rights activities together, ” said Alena. At the end of her testimony she took of her blouse, under which there was the T-shirt. The public met this performance with applause.
The judge decided to postpone the consideration of the documents which were requested from the border control committee and the tax inspection on solicitation of the defense.