Public commission formed to defend rights of arrested Vawkavysk dissidents

Чт, 5 Март 2009. Общество, Политика

Opposition activists are setting up a public commission for “defending the rights” of arrested dissidents Mikalay Awtukhovich, Yury Lyavonaw and Uladzimir Asipenka.

The commission is expected to consist of former political prisoners and representatives of civil society, including small business, human rights and Afghanistan war veteran groups. “Political groups, for instance the European Coalition, the Movement for Freedom, also may join,” he said.

Similar commissions were formed in the past to defend activists sent to prison on what was widely believed to be political motives. All of them used all available means for securing the release of the political prisoners both at the local and international levels. The new commission will be doing the same – seeking to ensure that Awtukhovich, Lyavonaw and Asipenka are released as soon as possible

Messrs. Awtukhovich, Lyavonaw and Asipenka were arrested in armed raids conducted in Vawkavysk, Hrodna region, on February 8 by members of Almaz, the interior ministry’s elite counter-terrorist unit. The men were brought to a detention center in Minsk. Police said that they were suspected of the illegal possession of explosives and firearms, and a series of arsons and explosions targeting the property of local officials, which took place as far back as 2005.

All the three have been charged under Article 218 of the Criminal Code, which penalizes deliberate destruction of or damage to property caused in a way dangerous to the public or the intentional infliction of large-scale damage. If convicted, the men may be sentenced to a prison term between three and 12 years.

Opposition politicians and human rights activists have condemned their prosecution as illegal and politically motivated.

Messrs. Awtukhovich and Lyavonaw, former business partners, earlier served 18 months in prison for alleged tax evasion and illegal business activities. They were both granted early release in January 2008.

Mr. Awtukhovich insisted that he had been sent to prison because he had protested authorities’ arbitrary rule. Amnesty International declared him and Mr. Lyavonaw prisoners of conscience.

Mr. Awtukhovich, who is a leader of a nascent association of veterans of Soviet wars abroad, was among civil society activists who petitioned the government in January to restore state benefits to the Afghanistan War’s veterans.

NewsBY.org - News of Belarus



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