On January 18, the media reported that a criminal case against political prisoner and former Belgazprombank CEO Viktar Babaryka, who has been in custody for eight months, had been forwarded to the Prosecutor General’s Office and was soon expected to be heard at the Supreme Court.
The following day, Babaryka’s lawyer Dzmitry Layeuski said that the former presidential nominee’s defenders were “not allowed to copy the case file documents” and that for more than a month, from mid-December until now, the lawyers were not allowed in the pre-trial detention center. As a result, Viktar Babaryka has been deprived of confidential consultations on the verge of upcoming trial.
In response to the news, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and the Human Rights Center "Viasna" wrote to several UN special rapporteurs and demanded that the Belarusian authorities provided political prisoner Viktar Babaryka with the opportunity to exercise his right to defense and legal assistance on a confidential basis.
Human rights activists note in their appeal that they are concerned by information about serious obstacles to Babaryka’s lawyers, in particular.
In a message to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus Ms. Anaïs Marin, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers Mr. Diego García-Sayán and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Ms. Mary Lawlor, the human rights activists stress that the ban on copying the materials of the criminal case “significantly limits the ability of defense lawyers to study the charges and narrows the possibilities to challenge the charges brought against Viktar Babaryka.”
Viasna and BHC note that creating obstacles for Viktar Babaryka’s communicate with his lawyers for more than a month is a violation of his right to defense, which, together with the arrest of his lawyer Maksim Znak and the disbarment of his other lawyer Aliaksandr Pylchanka, are viewed by the country’s human rights community as an affront on the prisoner’s right to defense and a fair trial, as the authorities went to extreme lengths to thwart a full-fledged defense strategy.
On January 21, it became known that the Prosecutor General’s Office had sent the “Belgazprombank case” to the Supreme Court.
Viktar Babaryka and several other Belgazprombank top managers are accused of receiving bribes by an organized group on a large scale. Viktar Babaryka is also accused of laundering money.
The Belgazprombank case was concocted shortly after Viktar Babaryka announced his intention to run for president. As a result, he was detained and disqualified from the race.