As the Ministry of Justice got scared by the possible protest of the lawyers and in what it has resulted. Part 1.
Text: Alina Radachynskaya
Aleh Aheyeu was Ales Mikhalevich’s lawyer just a little more than two months. He took the risk of protecting the interests of the presidential candidate, who was accused of the mass riots. Aleh Aheyeu was among those four lawyers, who at one stroke were deprived of their licenses in February last year. In the media there were just short reports about the pressure on the defenders of the "political" accused and there were no details. One year on we talk about what was really happening.
AR: What was it like to be the lawyer in the “19 December mass riot” case?
AA: The lawyers faced a number of problems, which are quite unusual for our work: it was also impossible to meet with the defendants, who were in the KGB pretrial detention center. When I went to the pretrial detention center, its employees told me that there were no free rooms for meetings. There was a public interest to this problem. As I could, I explained to journalists why I can not see my client. At the end of December the Justice Department started putting pressure on the most talkative lawyers, because of the KGB, which had not liked that such information had been publicized.
The man tells the truth: I am not allowed to meet with the defendant. The Ministry of Justice demands a contradiction. How can this information be exploded? To say that I am allowed to meet him? But, they do not let me! Like in the Soviet times, when we had to sign up for the queue and our queue numbers were checked. And now there is a queue of lawyers. It is a paradox: the lawyers working on the economic crimes were allowed, while those, who worked on the “19 December mass riot” cases, had to wait through days.
AR: Why were you under the pressure?
AA: One of the most innocuous interviews of mine was considered by the Ministry of Justice as a negative assessment of the work of the KGB pretrial detention center. In addition, I was a member of the Presidium of the Minsk City Bar. And the Presidium considered the request of the Ministry of Justice to bring to responsibility the four lawyers. There were hot debates. The Presidium, though not unanimously, took the side of the colleagues. The Presidium made a decision to refuse the imposition of disciplinary liability to all four lawyers, because there were no grounds for it, and this decision was sent to the Ministry of Justice.
AR: How did it end?
AA: Three out of the seven lawyers deprived of their licenses were members of the Presidium. The checking of the Presidium members started immediately. In January I got a visit from the KGB – they tried to seize my documents. And, as far I know, it was the same department that dealt with Mikhalevich. We did not give anything to the KGB workers, because of the client-lawyer privilege. Later on the same day the employee of the Ministry of Justice came, took everything and, as far as I can suppose, gave everything to the KGB.