Byalyatski sentenced to 4,5 years of imprisonment and property confiscation (update)
The judge Syarhej Bandarenka started reading the full text of the sentence upon Ales Byalyatski's request.
The sentence in the case of human rights defender Ales Byalyatski will be pronounced at 11 a.m. today in the Pershamayski district court of Minsk. The prosecutor demands 5 years of imprisonment in a reinforced-security colony with confiscation of property.
The sentence will be pronounced at 11 a.m. on Thursday, November 24.
Lawyer Dzmitry Layeuski is speaking (in the photo). He says that the prosecution does not have any information about the people who transferred money, the time and the purposes of transfers to Byalyatski’s two foreign accounts.
Lawyer: We have not been told where the information about the sums in Byalyatski’s accounts comes from. There is no proof of deliberate tax evasion either. The investigators have found out that he has two accounts abroad and that some money was transferred to them. All the rest has not been proved. It has not been proved that the money from Byalyatski’s accounts was sent to Belarus. Byalyatski did not transport it across the border and it means that the money cannot be considered foreign financial assistance and cannot be taxed.
The prosecutor demands to imprison Ales Byalyatski for 5 years in a top-security colony and to confiscate his property.
10.15. Both the lawyer and the prosecutor asked for a break till 10.00 November 23 in order to get prepared for the disputes.
10.10 The prosecutor started reading out the Ministry of Justice's documents which claimed the reasons for refusal to renew registration of "Vyasna".
10.05 The lawyer asked the judge for a break till tomorrow due to necessity to get prepared for the disputes.
10.00 The trial started. The prosecutor asked Byalyatski whether he understood the new accusation. "I do understand it as it doesn't differ from the previous one in fact. Therefore, I see no need to add anything to what I've said before. This accusation is not grounded and I do not admit it", answered Byalyatski.
The consideration of the case has been resumed. The court disputes are likely to start today. The lawyer and the prosecutor will hold speeches. There are many people in the court hall today - it is almost full.
Ales Byalyatski is in a good mood, as always. He smiles and waves to the people he knows.
Ales Byalyatski's lawyer asked for a break till November 22 due to necessity to familiarize with the new accusation.
10.36 The trial has been resumed. The prosecutor announced the new accusation. Activity on behalf of an unregistered organization is not mentioned in it. It is all about the tax evasion. The audience became noisy - no one understood why the prosecutor had promised "great changes" at the previous trial and where they were.
According to the new accusation (Part 2 Art. 243 of the Criminal Code) tax evasion is punished with restriction of freedom for the term of up to 5 years, or imprisonment for the term of 3-7 years with or without confiscation of property, with deprivation from the right to occupy certain positions or conduct certain activity, or without it.
10.00 The prosecutor asked the judge for a twenty-minutes break in the very beginning of the trial. He said he needed to define the new accusation.
12.37 The prosecutor asked to postpone the trial till November 16. He said he needed to reword the accusation. "It will differ from the previous one a lot", says the prosecutor.
12.33 The prosecutor asked why Byalyatski so stubbornly wanted to register "Viasna", not some other organization. Byalyatski sais that there had been attempts to register a new organization, not to renew the old one.
12.30 The prosecutor is interested in the procedure of publishing books. Byalyatski said that he did not deal with that. He refused to name the people who did it in order not to make them subjects for persecution.
12.25 Documents which confirm that Byalyatski is a laureate of international awards for human rights activity were attached tot he case. The lawyer also asked to attach a documents about Byalyatski's status as an honourable citizen of Genoa. The judge agreed.
11.57 "Prohibition of "Viasna's" activity violated the international agreements of Belarus", -- Byalyatski answered his lawyer's question why he had not stopped human rights activity after his organization had been closed. "Our rights are violated. Therefore, there are no grounds to stop the activity of our organization", -- added Byalyatski.
11.45 The prosecutor has no more questions to Byalyatski. The lawyer read out the letter of the Lithuanian Ministry of Justice that the information about Byalyatski's accounts cannot be the proof of his guilt. The judge agreed to attach this letter to the case.
11.40 The prosecutor asked Ales Byalyatski whether the book, translated by Byalyatski from Polish several years ago, had been published in Belarusian. Byalyatski replied "The translation has not been completed yet. The book is not published. Translating a book is not the same as making up a criminal case against a human rights defender".
11.35 The lawyer turned the judge's attention to the fact that printouts from the web-sites are not considered as documents in the procedural code as it is impossible to check their authenticity. In connection with that, he protested against attaching of printouts from the "Viasna" web-site to the case.
It looks like "Viasna"s web-site is the main source of information for the accusation. The public prosecutor already read out several texts and asked to attach them to the case. Among the materials there were aims of activity of "Viasna", statements of Lithuanian officials and international organizations in connection with Byalyatski's arrest. Some documents amuse the audience. In particular, the prosecutor filed an appeal to attach the report of one of the Western organizations that the activity of "Viasna" correspond to the aims declared at their web-site, to the case.
11.25 The prosecutor read out the statement of the Lithuanian Ministry of Justice that they regret having provided the information about Byalyatski's accounts to Belarus. The accusation got this information at the web-site of "Viasna".
11.15 The prosecutor asked Byalyatski which kind of "Viasna"s activity contradicts the President's decree which prescribes free use of financial help from abroad. "It is difficult for me to say", replied the human rights defender. The prosecutor also asked about the sum of the Sakharov Prize, received by Byalyatski back in 2006. The accused said he had only received the certificate.
11.00 The prosecutor got back to the question on reports before the Western granters. He was interested how Byalyatski had reported to them, whether he had saved the copies of the reports. His conversation with Byalyatski turned to the direction of the scheme of work of the human rights defenders. It is obvious that the accusation is mostly interested in the documents connected with the activity of "Viasna". The prosecutor even asked Byalyatski whether his wife could accidentally find them at home. Byalyatski was incensed by this question and said that a lot of searches had been done in his apartment and in his country-house, so any documents should have been found long ago. The prosecutor withdrew the question.
10.55 The state prosecutor asked Byalyatski whether he wanted to verify his signature on the documents from the foreign banks with the help of an expertise. "These documents are illegal and there's no point to verify them", answered Byalyatski.
10.45 The prosecutor tried to find out from Byalyatski what incomes he had in 1995 and 1999. The tax inspection provided no documents on these years. Byalyatski said he could not remember what incomes and expenses he had then. He also noted that there were much more acts of customs clearance than it was announced in the court, as each time he crossed the border it was recorded. "If you release me on recognizance I will bring all the acts to you tomorrow", - said Byalyatski to the prosecutor.
10.33 The lawyer noticed mistakes in the translations and informed the judge about it.
10.30 The judge informed that the materials of the criminal case had been translated at last. Lawyer Laeuski is reading them out.
10.25 According to the documents provided by the customs officers, Byalyatski committed no violations when he crossed the border.
10.22 The prosecutor continues reading the documents provided by the Customs Committee. These are copies of the customs clearance acts of Ales Byalyatski and customs declarations which he filled when he crossed the border. They were provided by Hrodna, Ashmyany and Brest customs.
10.20 Tax inspection's documents were attached to the case. The lawyer turns the judge's attention that there had been no serious violations. Discrepancies between incomes and expenses are not essential. Besides, Byalyatski paid taxes from even this small sum (about 33 dollars).
10.15 There is much information about Byalyatski's and his wife's real estate. The prosecutor disclaimed information about the facts of purchase and sale of apartments, land plots and houses. However, tax inspectors found no violations in that.
10.08 According to the checkings conducted by the inspection on taxation and fees, Ales Byalyatski committed no serious violations. The checkings were conducted on a regular basis. The only discrepancy was the non-essential difference between the incomes and the expenses, for less than Br 1 500 000 a year.
10.05 The trial has started. The hall has been filled with people but there are some vacant seats. The prosecutor is reading the tax inspection's documents about Ales Byalyatski's incomes.
13.10 All six volumes of the case's materials have been read out. A break has been announced till 15.00.
It was not established during investigation whether Byalyatski took to Belarus or declared the money personally, although the investigators had been ordered to do that. According to the case's materials, laptops of the human rights center "Viasna" were checked on presence of files which contained the words "grant" or "receipt", informs "Narodnaya Volya".
10.30 Consideration of the case's written materials is continued on the third day of trial.
According to Radio Liberty, the prosecutor read out the translation of the letter from the Lithuanian bank NORD dated March 7, 2011. The bank informed that Byalyatski's accounts had been opened in 2009 and that bank statements on them could not be verified by a stamp as the bank had no stamp.
The sums which arrived to Byalyatski's account from the Norwegian Helsinki Committee were announced in court, the aim of payment - "Viasna". It was also announced that Byalyatski transferred money to Tatsiana Ravyaka and other human rights defenders.
Let us remind you, Lithuanian Minister of Justice Remigijus Šimašius stated on November 3 that all the documents connected with Byalyatski's case, provided to Belarus from Lithuania, had no legal force and could not be used in court.
18.00 The today’s hearing has finished. The last hour was dedicated to Byalyatski’s case papers read out by the prosecutor.
The hearing will be resumed on November 4 at 10 a.m.
17.20 There are a lot of banking documents and documents from the tax inspectorate among the case papers read out by the prosecutor. Interestingly, some of the documents received from Poland and Lithuania have been partially translated or have not been translated at all.
17.05 The judge has decided to put off the consideration of the documents that have been ordered from the Border Committee and the tax inspectorate. They will be considered when the prosecutor receives them. The hearing continues. The interrogation of witnesses is over and the prosecution is reading out the case papers now.
17.00 The hearing has been resumed. The prosecutor has noted that the documents from the Border Committee and the tax inspectorate Byalyatski’s lawyer asks to attach to the case will be ready next week.
16.30 A 30-minute break has been announced.
16.08 Mahilyou entrepreneur Dzmitry Kolcha is being interrogated. He has referred to article 27 of the Construction at the very beginning. Apparently, the prosecutor is not really lucky trying to get information from witnesses today.
According to the Lithuanian and Polish documents presented by the prosecutor, Byalyatski transferred sums of 5, 7, 8, 10 and 12 thousand dollars to the people who have been summoned to court as witnesses today.
15.50 Witness Victar Sazonau, Hrodna human rights defender, has been summoned. Sazonau has refused to answer all the questions about “Vyasna” and financing. He says that he did not make any profit on human rights activities.
Leaving the court room, Tatstsyana Ravyaka showed Byalyatski that she was wearing a T-shirt with his photo. The T-shirts have become very popular with visitors of Minsk Moscow District Court. Some visitors were made to undress before entering the court.
15.45 Ravyaka has also mentioned the right not to witness against self and the prosecutor is unable to find out anything else. She has only noted that he received money for human rights activities from Byalyatski. She is refusing to name the exact sums and goals.
15.35 Tatstsyana Ravyaka is giving evidence in court. She has described her attitude to Byalyatski and the way they got acquainted. Ravyaka has noted that Ales Byalyatski is her colleague in the field of human rights activities.
15.22 One more witness – inhabitant of Byalynichy Andrei Paluda – is being interrogated. He says that he knows Byalyatski and that he received money for human rights activities from him. He has refused to answer any other questions not to witness against self “according to article 27 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus”.
15.20 Ales Byalyatski’s lawyer has found mistakes in the case papers. He says that different account numbers are mentioned in the documents containing information about Zvozkau’s account and in the translation. The prosecutor has admitted the mistake.
There are fewer people in the court room today. Leaders of political parties and movements have not come.
14.55 The first witness is human rights defender Barys Zvozkau. Zvozkau only said that he had known Byalyatski for several years. He refused to answer the other questions and claimed that his did not have any accounts abroad.
However, the prosecutor demonstrated documents containing Zvozkau’s name presented by a Polish bank. But Polish bank employees informed Zvozkau that the account did not exist. He even has a reference from the bank.
The witness insists on the fact that he did not receive any money from Byalyatski and did not transfer money to his accounts either.
14.40 The present were allowed to enter the court room after a 40-minutes delay. The reason for it was not explained. Even the secretary did not manage to answer why the hearing was resumed so late.
A few more witnesses are expected to be interrogated after the dinner hour.
11.55 Tax inspectors are making speeches at Byalyatski’s trial.
Leanid Chauko, deputy director of the Humanitarian Activities Department of the President’s Administration, was the first witness.
He describes the principles of getting humanitarian aid in Belarus. The lawyer asked if he was aware of the criminal case. Having received a negative reply, the lawyer drew attention to the fact, that the person could not be a witness in the case, informs nn.by.
Witness Sobaleva, Pershamaiski District tax inspector, was interrogated afterwards. She worked with Byalyatski. She registered his income declaration in 2008. Surplus was registered in 1994-1998, 1999, 2005 and 2006. Byalyatski said that he had borrowed money from a French citizen by 2014. Byalyatski paid taxes for the surplus on December 30, 2008.
Tax inspectors checked Byalyatski again in 2010 but did not register any surplus. Byalyatski presented foreign income declaration in 2008-2010. Sobaleva took part in drawing up reports after information about Byalyatski had arrived from Poland and Lithuania, informs Radio Liberty. She explained that the money received by citizens abroad is considered to be their income. To avoid it, citizens have to present information themselves. It was not done.
10.10 The trial of human rights defender Ales Byalyatski continues.
The court started interrogating Byalyatski and the prosecutor read out the charges on the first day – November 2.
Witnesses are expected to be interrogated in court today, informs Radio Liberty. People named in the case have been summoned to court: Natallya Pinchuk, Tatstsyana Ravyaka and Barys Zvoskau.
17.30 Ales Byalyatski’s trial will be resumed on November 3 at 10 a.m.
Radio Liberty informs that the lawyer asked questions to Byalyatski before the break. He asked him to explain the general check-up of his income conducted by the tax inspectorate in 2008. According to Byalyatski, they did not ask him for the necessary explanation while preparing the check-up report that is attached to the criminal case now.
One of the main things the prosecutor is trying to find out today is the scheme of work of the human rights centre “Vyasna”. The prosecutor is interested why the sums of money were given to “Vyasna” and on what terms, why “Vasna” did not preserve any reports about its activities. Ales Byalyatski has replied that he will have to describe the activities of “Vyasna” starting from 1996 and that “Vyasna” did not preserve any reports because there was no need to do it. “For whom should they have been preserved? For KGB?”, -asked Byalyatski addressing the prosecutor.
The judge is very correct. He hardly interferes in the hearing. It makes Byalyatski’s trial different from the “mass riots” trials.
14.55 Ales Byalyatski replies “I do not remember” and “I cannot confirm it” to almost all the prosecutor’s questions about money transfers.
14.50 The prosecutor is trying to find out why some of his money transfers (for example, to Tatsyana Ravyaka’s account) are marked as “family”. The human rights defender has explained that is was a required formal bank procedure.
The prosecutor has also asked to explain where Byalyatski got acquainted with Tatstsyana Ravyaka. He has explained that she is a famous Belarusian human rights defender and that he had no personal relations with her – they only worked together. The defendant’s statement has made the present laugh.
14.40 The prosecutor is reading out some of the case papers. In particular, he has claimed that Byalyatski transferred 10 thousand dollars to Tatsyana Ravyaka’s account in 2009. The prosecutor has asked Byalyatski to comment on the fact. The human rights defender says that he cannot confirm the information because he does not remember the exact dates or sums. Byalyatski has also added that he thinks that his case is initiated by KGB and that he cannot trust all the case papers.
14.35 The prosecutor is trying to find out who transferred money to Ales Byalyatski’s accounts in Lithuania. Investigators only have information about the sums that were transferred and money orders made by Byalyatski.
It has turned out that some case papers have not been translated into Belarusian. Ales Byalyatski has not answered the question why it has not been done.
14.30 The defendant has explained the prosecutor why he opened accounts in Polish and Lithuanian banks. According to him, the money was used to monitor the human rights situation in Belarus and for the activities of the “Vyasna” centre. Byalyatski says that he has opened the accounts in 2007.
14.25 The judge asked Ales Byalyatski about the sum of money people are allowed to transport across the border without additional taxation. The human rights defender replied that the sum totalled 10 thousand dollars and joked. He noted that he did not know “how many roubles it was”.
14.20 Byalyatski says that he filled in declarations every time he crossed the border. All the sums he transported across the border were mentioned there. There are dozens of them. The human rights activist says that the court can access them all.
11.55 The guards made Ina Kulei leave the court room because she was wearing on a T-shirt with a portrait of Ales Byalyatski. The woman was told that she would not be allowed to enter the court room anymore, reports Radio Liberty. The intercession of her husband, Alyaksandr Milinkevich, did not help.
11.50 The guards do not return white-red-white paraphernalia to visitors.
Unpleasant incidents have taken place in Moscow District Court. It happened to those who came to attend the trial of human rights defender Ales Byalyatski.
To enter the court room, visitors have to leave some of their belongings to the guards. Thus, the security guards made a girl to give them her white-red-white scarf. An elderly woman had to leave her white-red-white badge to them. The guards promised to return the things when the women would leave the court room.
However, when the visitors decided to leave, their belongings were not returned to them. The guards claim that they do not have those things. The girl burst into tears and left. The woman claimed that she would lodge a complaint about having been robbed in court.
11.05 The judge has rejected two Byalyatski’s petitions in court. The human rights activist asked to conduct the hearing in Belarusian and to change his measure of detention. According to the judge, Syarhei Bandarenka, Byalyatski is suspected of “a heinous crime”, informs Radio Liberty.
The judge has refused to record the hearing. Cameramen have left the court room.
10.20 Byalyatski was delivered to court at about 9.30 a.m., informs BelaPAN. The capacity of the court room is 80 seats. Besides Byalyatski’s relatives, the heads of the diplomatic missions of Germany, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic and the USA, famous politicians, civil activists and human rights defenders have come to court. Alyaksandr Milinkevich and Uladzimir Nyaklyayeu with their wives, Syarhei Kalyakin, Aleh Vouchak, Valyanstin Stefanovich, Tatstsyana Ravyaka, Aleh Hulak and Harry Pahanyaila are among them.
About two dozen young strangers have also entered the court room. When journalists asked them a few questions they replied that they were students of the department of law. There is a police bus parked near the entrance.
Byalyatski has filed a petition to conduct the hearing in Belarusian.
According to Euroradio reporter Ales Piletski, human rights activists Valyantsin Stefanovich and Uladzimir Labkovich and leader of the BPF Party Alyaksei Yanukevich have not managed to enter the court room. On the whole, there were about three dozen people in the lobby and about 30 people - outside at 10.20 a.m. A man wearing a T-shirt with the inscription “Release Byalyatski!” was not allowed to enter the court.
Let us remind you that the human rights activist is accused of major tax evasion. He is facing up to seven years of imprisonment. Information about Ales Byalyatski’s banking accounts was sent to Belarus from Lithuania and Poland. He kept the money needed for human rights activities in Belarus there.