Activist pushing for parliamentary probe into Lithuanian authorities` actions over criminal case against Byalyatski

Prominent Lithuanian human rights defender Stasys Kausinis has called on the country`s parliament to conduct a probe into the justice ministry`s actions over the criminal case against Belarusian rights activist...

 

Prominent Lithuanian human rights defender Stasys Kausinis has called on the country`s parliament to conduct a probe into the justice ministry`s actions over the criminal case against Belarusian rights activist Ales Byalyatski, according to the Lithuanian newspaper Lietuvos rytas, BelaPAN said.

In his petition to Emanuelis Zingeris, chairman of the Lithuanian parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Mr. Kausinis recalls that the ministry disclosed information about Mr. Byalyatski`s bank accounts to the Belarusian authorities, which led to his arrest and conviction on a charge of tax evasion in 2011.

The Lithuanian justice ministry came under much criticism for its cooperation with Minsk in the case and as it became clear that the Belarusian authorities were using the bank details to imprison Mr. Byalyatski for his human rights work, the ministry sent a letter to the Belarusian justice ministry. The letter said that the bank account information was unreliable and could not be used as evidence in court. However, the Belarusian court that heard the case against Mr. Byalyatski found that the letter had no legal force as it had not been drawn up properly.

In an interview with the newspaper, Tomas Vaitkevicius, Lithuania’s vice minister of justice, said that the letter had been written by officers of the foreign and interior ministries. "There was an aim to create conditions for the document to be used in court. They decided that the letter in that form would be enough. Considering all circumstances, a wider commentary was not thought to be required," he was quoted as saying.

"In our country if a court received such a letter, its attitude would be completely different. But what happened to this case in Belarus is not like the usual standard of justice," Mr. Vaitkevicius said.

Mr. Byalyatski, leader of a human rights group called Vyasna and vice president of the International Federation for Human Rights, was arrested in Minsk on August 4, 2011. On November 24, he was sentenced to four and a half years in prison on a charge of large-scale tax evasion. The charge stemmed from information about his bank accounts abroad, which was provided by authorities in Lithuania and Poland under interstate legal assistance agreements. During his trial, Mr. Byalyatski insisted that the money transferred by various foundations to his bank accounts abroad had been intended to finance Vyasna`s activities and therefore could not be viewed as his income subject to taxation.