Human rights defenders escaped the trap in the Hajdukou’s case

“Komsomolsk Truth” published an interview with Alexander Sidorovich, First deputy of district public persecutor in Vitebsk, who told little more about Andrej Hajdukou’s case. According to Mr. Sidorovich Hajdukou was interested in cooperation with foreign intelligence services, sought contact with them, and the Belarusian special services just entered the game. “In August 2012 the intelligence services received information that Belarusian citizen wants to get in touch with one of the foreign special services. He prepared letters – one written in English and addressed to  the CIA , then in Russian – in which he writes about himself. In this letter there were encoded  three possible ways to contact him”, – said Sidorovich. The interview with Alexander Sidorovich commented for “Radio Svaboda” political scientist and human rights activist, Yuri Czausou.

RS: Is the interview with the prosecutor changing human rights defenders outlook at the Hajdukou’s case?

Czausou: Please note that this is not an official comment of special services. We still have the question of secrecy of the trial. Moreover, it is difficult to draw conclusions on the basis of informal comments. However, such comments shed light on the reason for the reclassification of the indictment act against Andrej Hajdukou  from art. 356 (high treason) to art. 356.1.

RS: What does it mean? He has been imprisoned for a long time. Are we to understand that throughout this period the authorities were unable to determine the qualification of crime?

Czausou: It’s typical approach of our special services – stop an accused under the paragraph that allows for keeping under arrest till the trial, and then if they fail to find evidence they reclassify an indictment. That’s the main question to special services – if there was no evidence of treason from the very beginning, why the  investigation was initiated under this paragraph?

We had a similar case in 2006. Article 193 (1) – the activities of the informal organization, which does not allow pre-trial detention. Thus, the case was initiated under Art. 193, after some time the court reclassified the charge to lighter action. KGB could hold Hajdukou in custody to get him to confess to other crimes.

RS: In a recent “Prague Accent” you said, “there is the practice of the Strasbourg Court, according to which, if the special services who are notified about the offense use provocation or support its commission, the offender must be acquitted.” Belarus does not come under the jurisdiction of Strasbourg. However, do  we have to do with such case here?

Czausou: No. The issue of provocation of special services came before the Court in Strasbourg on the basis of complaints from the citizens of post-Soviet states, mainly from Russia and Ukraine. The case was based on the fact that police officers rather than fighting crime, actively provoke, only to find somebody guilty. Position of the Strasbourg Court is as follows: if the law enforcement authorities participate in any criminal activity, knowing about the planned conspiracy and accompany perpetrators, then it is not a provocation. Another thing is when law enforcement bodies initiate the creation of the offense, as well as its intention, where the offense would not have been possible without their participation from the very beginning, then there is a provocation, and its victims should be acquitted.

According to the comments of the prosecutor from Vitebsk, special services became aware of the Hajdukou’s actions  and joined in the game.

RS: In the same program, the “Prague Accent” journalist Sergei Sacuk convened following scenario: “The authorities provoke human rights defenders to announce Hajdukou a political prisoner. Then the authorities make public  a whole new evidence by which Hajdukou is a spy, and NOT a prisoner of conscience. In this way, human rights defenders will come out again as fools.” Belarusian human rights defenders have already proclaimed Andrej Hajdukou a political prisoner. The next step was an interview with the Vitebsk prosecutor in “Komsomolsk Truth”. Is the scenario of Sacuk possible?

Czausou: No. Arguments of  human rights activists primarily related to the secrecy of the judicial process and the qualification of crime by Art. 356 (1), used in the deliberately ambiguous interpretation.

Compared with the legislation of other countries, Belarusian law does not look too bad in this regard. The German Criminal Code, to determine committing a similar act, acknowledge the very fact that the foreign state or its agent are informed about one’s willingness to cooperate with them. Belarusian code is not the most severe. But what is terrifying is the way it which the authorities use it, even before the court.

As for considering Hajdukou a political prisoner,  for the Belarusian-European relations the united position of the international community, notably Amnesty International, is of paramount importance. Amnesty International has not still defined Hajdukou as a prisoner of conscience, allowing human rights defenders to avoid this trap.

Such cases require careful analysis and verification before court. Hajdukou’s defendants sought an annulment, the matter can therefore be dealt with again.

This raises the question of publicizing controversial criminal cases by the media. Human rights defenders refrained from comments until the end of the case, and the journalists were trying to be rather objective. I think that in light of the comments in the “Komsomolsk Truth”, the authorities will have enough sense to realize cassation in open trial, which will surely present the case in a different light.

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