Judge Szczesny Szymanski, from court in Bialystok, Poland, is to send a pronouncement of judgment against the Belarusian political prisoner and refugee Andrei Zhukavec till the end of June. Andrei Zhukavec will be able to make a formal appeal only after receiving a formal decision. Andrei Zhukavec was accused of fraud and extortion of loans in two Belarusian banks in the amount of $700,000. On April 30 in Bialystok he was sentenced to 3 years of imprisonment and a fine of $15,000. Currently Andrei Zhukavec urgently prepares an appeal.
Andrei Zhukavec: in the content of the appeal I have collected and described in detail more than 30 violations that took place during the meeting of the court concerning my case. Therefore, this document will be quite extensive. The worst thing is that I am treated like a criminal. It turns out that the judge has done his job, despite the fact that I think he knows that I am innocent! All the evidence, even those that were transferred from Belarus, are unverified. The judge should have to confirm them. Polish special services should have to explain such and no other mode of judge’s proceedings! Why the judge traveled to Belarus? As long as there is a dictatorship and operates a network of espionage, our efforts will be insufficient to do anything and change the situation. However, one should fight.
Palitviazni.info: After the announcement of the sentence, many Polish politicians talked about the fact that your case will be moved from Bialystok to another region of the country. Has already been initiated any procedure in this regard?
Andrei Zhukavec: In fact, there was a lot of talk, but it seems to me that the case will be left in Bialystok. The judicial system in Poland is independent from the other branches of government. An annulment would have been dealt by the Supreme Court, based in Bialystok. Here, however, there is an exception. If the judgment at first instance remains intact, I will be able to bring an annulment. However, if it is watered down, I would not have had such a right. In such case, an appeal may be lodged only by the Ombudsman. I am waiting for a response from the Attorney General. I ask, what is the source of all this reshuffle, why the translators who have made a mistake in translation are not held liable.
Generally speaking, for the time being everything stays in Bialystok. Unfortunately, the region itself has strongly compromised itself. I should be careful in considering applying for the status of refugee, or even to stay in the Podlasie region.
Palitviazni.info: Despite it you received a support from politicians. Is, in fact, nothing happening?
Andrei Zhukavec: You know, the issue of control is quite complex. According to the law, the control can only be exercised by courts of higher instance over courts of lower instance. Thus, the court of first resort is controlled by the district court, and this in turn – by the Supreme Court. However, the Attorney General has direct control over the prosecution.
The hearing considering my appeal will take place in September this year. In Poland, a lawsuit over me – as a political refugee has lasted almost 12 years. Throughout this period, the Belarusian side is fighting for my extradition.
In 1999, entrepreneur Andrei Zhukavec gave material support to the Young Front organization, then was made to leave Belarus and asked for political exile in Poland. At that time Belarus initiated a criminal case against Zhukavec, for the alleged fraud.