KGB head will not say whether riot case will reach trial
The head of the Committee for State Security (KGB) declined to say on Tuesday whether a so-called riot case would actually get to court.
Speaking to reporters in the House of Representatives, Valery Vakulchyk noted that it was yet early to "speak about such matters." He described the charges brought in the case as "serious" but said that the charges against some people had already been dropped for lack of evidence.
The KGB head indicated that some people charged in the case were accused of involvement in an organized armed group. "This is extremism, a serious thing," he said.
"But at the same time investigators have a task of figuring out all matters objectively. Of course, I know more but cannot speak for the sake of investigators and for the sake of those charged in the case, so as not to brand someone too early."
Mr. Vakulchyk said that "all answers to all questions should be given in the manner prescribed by law" and a person cannot be called a criminal before his or her trial.
Asked whether Miraslaw Lazowski was considered as the head of the alleged extremist group, Mr. Vakulchyk replied that it was yet early to "brand" the man the chief member.
The KGB head also announced that a Babruysk-based youth military club called Patriot had nothing to do with the case. According to him, some of those charged with forming an illegal armed unit were involved with the club in the past.
Acknowledging that the riot case attracted much attention from the public, Mr. Vakulchyk would not say what the suspects were believed to have planned to perpetrate. "There are very many questions, very much information," he said.
"You know how many people have been charged. All matters should be sorted out in detail, so that we are not later accused of providing biased coverage of something. One should have patience, the investigation will be completed in the near future and you will get all answers."
According to human rights defenders, some 30 suspects were arrested in the riot case. Many of them were later released one by one on their own recognizance, but 14 continue to be held in custody.
All of those in detention are former members of White Legion or were connected with the now-defunct organization, which is described by the government-controlled media as an extremist nationalist group.
The KGB has already dropped charges against Syarhey Palchewski, Dzmitry Dashkevich and Raman Vasilyew, prominent activists of an opposition youth group called Malady Front (Young Front) as well as against Mikalay Mikhalkow, director of Patriot, and his son Yan, a member of the club, and against Syarhey Kulinich, deputy chairman of the unregistered Narodnaya Hramada Belarusian Social Democratic Party, which is led by former presidential candidate Mikalay Statkevich.
Suspects in the riot case started to be arrested after Alyaksandr Lukashenka revealed on March 21 that in the past few hours "we have apprehended a couple of dozens of militants who were preparing an armed provocation."
Three days later the Belarusian leader said that those arrested on suspicion of training and preparing for a riot had dug holes in forests "like partisans" to hide "weapons, iron bars, axes, knives, grenades and other things," and pretended to teach children patriotism.