Tag Archives: Alexander Lukashenko

Femen: Kidnapped and Abused in Belarus

December 21, 2011
Ukrainian Activist Group Accuses Belarusian KGB Of Kidnapping, Abuse
by  RFE/RL

A Ukrainian women’s activist group has accused Belarusian police of kidnapping and physically abusing them after they held a public protest against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Minsk.

RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service reported that three members of the Femen group, held a press conference in Kyiv on December 21 to talk about their ordeal, which they said involved their abduction from Minsk by members of Belarus’s KGB to a distant forest, where they were stripped, doused with oil, and physically threatened.

Activist Inna Shevchenko pledged that her group won’t stop because of threats.

“If they think that by this bullying they will break us, I can only laugh in response,” she said. “We promise that we will continue coming to Belarus. We promise to support the Belarusian people. We will continue our work, now with greater strength.”

Femen is well known in Ukraine and throughout the region for its attention-grabbing strategy of stripping from the waist up at demonstrations for political freedom and women’s rights.

Their December 19 protest in Minsk was held to mark the one-year anniversary of Lukashenka’s disputed reelection.

Bare-chested and wearing fake Lukashenka-style mustaches at the December 19 event, the women held placards that read “Freedom to political prisoners” and “Long live Belarus,” a mantra of the protest movement.

RFE/RL’s Belarusian Service reported that security agents quickly broke up the demonstration and arrested several journalists.

Alleged Beatings

The three activists fled, Femen said, and hours later, were abducted at a Minsk bus station, blindfolded, and driven to the Gomel region, about 200 kilometers southeast of the  capital.

According to the three women, they were taken to a forest, beaten and forced to undress, doused in oil, and threatened with immolation.

The group says the assailants cut the women’s hair with knives and abandoned them in the woods.

The three found their way to a village, where they were given refuge by locals and were able to call Femen’s leader, Anna Gutsol, for help.

Gutsol told RFE/RL that the women said they were “alive but not in good health” and “very scared.”

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said the three women returned to Ukraine earlier today along with Kyiv’s consul to Minsk, who had traveled to the village to investigate.

Ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Dikusarov told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service that even though the women did not have permission to protest, “there are certain internal legal norms” that govern punishment for unsanctioned actions.

He added, “Thus, we absolutely do not support it if such actions took place on the territory of Belarus… This situation requires a thorough investigation, including on the territory of Belarus.”

In response to a question about Femen’s allegations, Ukraine’s foreign minister, Konstantin Grishchenko, also told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service that Ukraine should defend its citizens abroad. He did not mention Femen.

Belarus Calls Claims ‘A Provocation’

At the Femen press conference, Shevchenko claimed she and her fellow activists had told the police their story and were promised that there would be an investigation:

“We demand that the Belarusian ambassador [to Ukraine] be expelled,” she said. “We demand an investigation of the KGB employees who bullied us. We testified to the police, and we received a promise that a criminal case will be opened, but we have doubts about it because we understand that everybody is working to strengthen the Lukashenka regime.”

Vadim Zaitsev, a spokesman for the Belarusian KGB, told Western news agencies that Femen’s allegations are “a provocation” and denied security officers had harmed or threatened the women in any way.

Lukashenko, who is often called “Europe’s last dictator,” has been in power since 1994.

He was declared the winner in last year’s elections, but tens of thousands of Belarusians protested alleged vote fraud.

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Here is a video of Femen’s press conference in Kyiv following their arrival back in Ukraine:

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Europe: Please Save My Son from the Death Penalty in Belarus

www.change.org

Petition created by: Liubou Kavalyova (Vitebsk, Belarus)
Petitioning: High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (Catherine Ashton)

On November 30th the Supreme Court of Belarus sentenced my son Uladzislau Kavalyou (Vladislav Kovalev) and another young man Dzmitry Kanavalau (Dmitry Konovalov) to death.

Kanavalau was convicted of organizing the terrorist attacks in 2005 in Vitebsk, in 2008 in Minsk, and in the subway of Minsk in April 2011. My son Uladzislau was convicted of aiding him.

The accusations are based on the statements made by these two young men, which, as many believe, were given under physical and emotional duress. None of what has been said in court is supported by any evidence. My son insists he was not involved in the terrorist attacks and suggested Dzmitry Kanavalau had no relation to them, either.

I believe that my son is innocent.
So do victims of the attack and many international human rights organizations:

– The victims of the attack have a number of questions regarding the impartiality and transparency of the trial and access to the case materials. Aliaksandr Kruty, a representative of one of the injured from the April attack, Inesa Krutaya, made a motion to abolish the death penalty and asked the court to defer consideration of the case. A few days later – on September 20th – he was arrested and sent to a mental hospital allegedly for hooliganism. None of their motions were considered by the court.

– The defendants claimed that they were exposed to torture during the investigation to extract confessions.

– During the trial, independent journalists were banned from communicating with victims. The official media already referred to Kavalyou and Kanavalau as terrorists without awaiting the decision of the court.

With this petition, I am turning to you asking one single thing: I am asking you to not let them kill my son Uladzislau Kavalyou and Dzmitry Kanavalau, but instead to find those who are actually responsible for these terrorist crimes.

At the moment Belarus is the only country in Europe which continues to carry out death sentences. And while these two men await execution, those who are responsible for the attacks walk freely.

Reports and Statements of Human Rights Groups:

Human Rights House: Human rights defenders concerned over trial against terrorism suspects in Belarus

Belarus Human Rights Group “Viasna”: Stop murder – in the name of the people!

Amnesty International: Belarus continues to execute people despite the international pressure, date and time of executions are not made public to the families, bodies never returned.

Sign the petition here.

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International Business Times
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Belarus Court Sentences Minsk Metro Bombers to Death by Pistol
By Elisha Maldonado

Two men found guilty of setting off a bomb in a Minsk subway station in April, killing 15 people and wounding hundreds, were handed down a death sentence in a Belarus court Wednesday.

Judge Aleksandr Fyodortsov said the defendants, childhood friends Dmitry Konovalov and Vladislav Kovalyov, both 25, “pose an exceptional danger to society and an exceptional penalty should be applied to them.”

Belarus is the only country in Europe where a death penalty remains legal —  it is also the last remaining dictatorship in Europe.  The court ignored complaints from relatives and human rights activists who allege the two factory workers had been framed.

“The court has established that Konovalov carried out an act of terrorism,” Fyodortsov said. “The motives involved an attempt to destabilize the situation and scare people. The court sentences them to the extreme measure of punishment, death by execution.”

Unless the country’s neo-Soviet president, Alexander Lukashenko grants them a pardon — something he has done only once in 16 years — the pair will soon be blindfolded, forced to their knees and executed with a single bullet to the back of their necks in a process that takes less than two minutes, The Daily Telegraph newspaper of Britain reported.

Konovalov and Kovalyov, caged in the courtroom, showed no emotion when the sentence was passed, while others in the courtroom did it for them, booing and yelling that the trial had been a disgrace.

“We have serious concerns that both Dmitry Konovalov and Vladislav Kovalyov were ill-treated in order to force them to confess and that this trial does not stand up to international scrutiny,” said John Dalhusien, Amensty International’s Europe and Central Asia Deputy Program Director.

“Belarus has a flawed justice system and routinely flouts international fair-trial standards, increasing the risk of a miscarriage of justice and of executing an innocent person.”

Since the two were tried by the Supreme Court, the accused have no right of appeal.

Both men were arrested three days after the explosion on a packed platform during the evening rush-hour on April 11, Reuters reported. Konovalov initially admitted to carrying out the attack, but then refused to make a statement or testify in his own defense. Kovalyov recanted his initial confession, saying it was made under duress when he heard his friend being beaten during interrogation.

According to Amnesty, there are reports than an ambulance was called during Konovalov’s interrogation. Furthermore, Amnesty reported, no forensic evidence linking either man to the explosion was found, nor were there any traces of explosives found on their person.

The bombing followed a brutal government crackdown on the opposition and came as the country slipped even further into an economic crisis.

Kovalyov’s mother, Lyubov, who has led a campaign to save the two men, said before the sentence was passed that any confessions had been made under duress.

“The accusations are based on statements made by my son and Dmitry, which were given under physical and moral pressure in the preliminary investigation,” she said in a statement. “My son denied these statements in court. No other evidence of guilt was offered. While they try to persuade the people that my son and his friend should be shot, the real criminals are going free.”

Human rights groups claim around 400 people have been executed in Belarus since the 1991 Soviet collapse.

“The death penalty is irrevocable and we oppose its use in all cases. President Lukashenko should immediately declare a moratorium on the death penalty and join the growing ranks of countries that have abandoned this barbaric punishment,” Dalhuisen said.

“The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Belarus remains the only country in Europe and the former Soviet Union which still carries out executions.”

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www.charter97.org

SENTENCED TO DEATH (Video)
November 30, 2011

SENTENCED TO DEATH (Video)

The Supreme Court of Belarus has pronounced the verdict in the Minsk metro bombing case.

The court sentenced the two accused of a terrorist attack in the Minsk metro to capital punishment.

Judge Alyaksndr Fedartsou, who conducted the trial, said the court was becoming more and more convinced while examining the materials of the case that “Dzmitry Kanavalau (the perpetrator) and Uladzislau Kavalyou (the accomplice) are extremely dangerous for the society and deserve capital punishment”.

The Supreme Court of Belarus came to a conclusion that Dzmitry Kanavalau committed a terrorist attack in Minsk on April 11, 2010. Kavalyou is reported to have helped Kanavalau to carry an explosive device in a flat and helped Kanavalau with the bomb.

Kanavalau was found guilty of taking the bomb to the metro and exploding it. While reading out the court decision, the Judge Alyaksandr Fedartsou mentioned names of 15 people killed and 200 people injured by the blast.

Kanavalau was also found guilty of explosion on the Independence Day in July 2008. Kavalyou was found guilty of not informing about the crime.

Kanavalau was also found guilty of making blasts in Vitsebsk on 14 and 22 September 2005 under article “terrorism”.

The fact that Kanavalau did not mention TNT as a component of the explosive device “does not leave doubts it was he who made the explosives and proves his unwillingness to inform investigation about the sources he got explosives from.

The court dropped charges from Kavalyou with failure to inform about preparing a terrorist attack of September 14 2005 due to lack of evidence.

The court found Kanavalau guilty of making two explosions in common lobbies of block of flats in Vitsebsk, an explosion on the façade of the library, setting tripwires and blasts near Hryhsany station, arson of a car. The court declared him not guilty of an attempted arson of a newspaper stall in 2004 “due to absence of proof”. The court said it was not proven that Kanavalau had been making explosive devices in that period of time.

Kavalyou pleaded not guilty during the trial claiming his evidence during investigation had been given under pressure.

Kanavalau refused to answer questions in court, but pleaded guilty to blasts in July 2008 in Minsk and April 2011 in the Minsk metro, but pleaded not guilty to the counts of blasts in Vitsebsk in 2005.

Lawyers for the defence said the investigation did not have convincing proofs of the guilt of Kanavalau and Kavalyou.

Some people injured by the blast said during the trial they had doubts if guilt of the defendants was proven.

After the state prosecution demanded death penalty for the accused, Belarusian human rights activists raised their voices against death sentence.

“One cannot ignore the fact that, according to reports by lawyers for the defence, human rights activists, certain victims and ordinary citizens, the investigation into the Minsk metro explosion, as well as the entire trial of Dzmitry Kanavalau and Uladzislau Kavalyou, failed to be professional and convincing,” a joint statement of a number of human rights organizations says. “We believe that, provided that the investigation has established Dzmitry Kanavalau and Uladzislau Kavalyou’s direct involvement in the metro explosion, the lives of the persons possessing valuable information on the circumstances of the tragedy should be saved for the sake of public security. Dzmitry Kanavalau and Uladzislau Kavalyou’s lives should be saved because further data on the 11 April terrorist act may appear,” the statement reads.

The authors of the statement underline: “It is not the execution of the criminals that should be viewed as the crucial aftermath of the case, but the society’s confidence in the establishment of every motive, circumstance and persons involved.”

The decision of the Supreme Court on the case is final, without appeal. Under the law, a petition for mercy can be considered by the president of the country.

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Bitter Winter in Belarus

Bitter Winter in Belarus

http://www.fidh.org/Bitter-Winter-in-Belarus

The FIDH 7-minute video Bitter Winter in Belarus denounces the violent repression exercised by the Belarus authorities against all the dissident voices that have protested against the rigging of the December 19, 2010 presidential elections.

Following the announcement of the election results, about 700 persons demonstrating peacefully in the centre of Minsk to denounce electoral fraud were arrested and sent to prison; many of them were severely beaten. Among them were seven opposition candidates, along with political activists, independent journalists and human rights defenders. Some of the activists received arbitrary prison sentences, while others had their offices raided and ravaged repeatedly by the security forces, without access to fair means of defence; all were subjected to threats on the part of the regime. President Lukashenko himself declared, the day after the election results were announced: “Let’s finish the job! There shall be no more senseless democracy in the country! […] They shall all go to prison, in accordance with the law.”

Today the repression continues. Two former presidential candidates, Andrei Sannikov and Vladzimir Niaklayev are still in detention and under house arrest, respectively. Several lawyers of the detained activists have had their licences withdrawn. The two independent newspapers “Nasha Niva” and “Narodnaya Volia” risk being banned shortly. Six journalists have been accused of having participated in “massive disturbances of the peace,” and one of their colleagues has been sentenced to four years’ imprisonment. And the human rights defenders are more than ever targeted by the regime, and are interrogated, searched and subjected to smear campaigns broadcast all day long on the public channels.(1)

The FIDH web documentary shows damning testimonies of a society stifled by a regime that is trying at all costs to suppress all independent voices.

The web documentary is available at the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHWvuXFvdyE

FIDH will shortly issue a detailed report on the repression.

Press contacts:
Karine Appy: +33 1 43 55 14 12 / +33 6 48 05 91 57
Arthur Manet: +33 1 43 55 90 19 / +33 6 72 28 42 94

(1)  See the urgent appeals of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (a joint programme of FIDH and OMCT), May 15, 2011 http://www.fidh.org/Expulsion-of-Ms-Victoria-Gromova-and-Mr-Alexander and April 20, 2011: http://www.fidh.org/Human-rights-defender-from-Ukraine-was-denied and the press release of May 4, 2011 : http://www.fidh.org/Belarusian-President-and-national-TV-journalists

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Belarus ‘Accepts’ $3Bln Loan
The Moscow Times
18 May 2011
By Anatoly Medetsky

Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said Tuesday that Belarus appeared to have accepted the terms of a $3 billion loan offered by a Russia-led group of former Soviet republics to save the teetering Belarussian economy from a disastrous collapse.

He was reacting to news reports that quoted Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko as saying, after a telephone conversation with President Dmitry Medvedev, that the loan was a done deal.

“We believe it means the terms of the loan have been accepted,” Kudrin told reporters at an unplanned briefing after a regular Presidium session.

Russia, the biggest donor of the Eurasian Economic Community’s anti-crisis fund, has insisted that Belarus privatize $3 billion worth of its enterprises this year and draw foreign direct investment as conditions for the fund’s loan, Kudrin said Tuesday. He didn’t specify the required amount of investment.

Lukashenko is widely believed to seek divisions in Russia’s ruling tandem of Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in order to gain concessions — a tactic that has borne little fruit so far. Putin is expected to raise the loan issue during his visit to Minsk on Thursday.

“I hope we will be able to clarify the details there,” Kudrin said.

Divided into $1 billion tranches over three years, the planned loan is to help Belarus strengthen state finances after its national currency suffered a sharp devaluation in recent weeks.

Russia has long sought a way for its companies to buy stakes of Belarussian companies, such as its refineries.

Belarus is servicing its debt to Russia, which amounts to another $3 billion over the past four years, Kudrin said.

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