No one, including journalists and human rights defenders, was allowed to attend the first hearing in the trial of Andrey Haydukou, a young opposition activist charged with high treason, in Vitsebsk Regional Court today.
The 23-year Deputy Head of unregistered organization “The Union of Young Intellectuals” was arrested by the State Security Committee (KGB) on November 8, 2012 in Vitsebsk. On November 13, 2013 KGB spokesman Aliaksandr Antanovich announced that Mr Haydukou “had gathered and passed political and economic information on the instructions of a foreign intelligence agency,” and that he had been caught in the act of making a dead drop. Now Andrey Haydukou is accused of treason against Fatherland under Art. 356 of the Belarusian Criminal Code and may be sentenced to up to 15 years of imprisonment.
“He is accused of cooperation with the USA”
Mr Haydukou has been not allowed to see his parents since he was arrested seven months ago. That is why his relatives are not able to throw light on any details of the case.
Meanwhile, the Belarus Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has published Mr Haydukou’s letter to Tatsiana Seviarynets, Belarusian Christian Democracy (BCD)`s coordinator in Vitsebsk region, in which the 23-year-old man reveals that he is suspected of offering to collect sensitive information about Belarus for the US Central Intelligence Agency.
According to Mr Haydukou, the KGB claims that his activities could have caused damage to the national security of Belarus and classifies them as an attempt to undermine the constitutional order of Belarus and impose a policy that does not meet its national interests. The KGB accuses Mr Haydukou of trying to destabilize the social and political situation in Belarus and seeking financial assistance from the CIA through the US embassy in Minsk.
“Haydukou doesn’t know English”
Andrey Haydukou is one of the leaders of the Union of Young Intellecluals and an activist of the organisation committee for establishing BCD party. It is the social activism that might have led to the young man’s arrest, his associates believe.
Yauhen Kanstantsinau, a member of the Union, told Belsat TV that Haydukou was accused of cooperation with the CIA; at that, chekists neglected the fact that “the spy” was unaquainted with the English language and was not privy to any state secrets. According to Mr Kanstantsinau, Andrey Haydukou was to hand over “certain materials concerning opposition activity” to some person, which became the reason for his being detained. At that particular time the youngsters were gathering the documents which were necessary for the registration of their organisation.
Would-be political prisoner?
Andrey Haydukou is likely to replace a current political prisoner who will be released; the authoities need “hostages” to trade with the West, human rights defender Nasta Loyka told Belsat TV. A not-guilty verdict is not to be expected in Belarus, she said. But the human rights activist does not rule out the possibility that prosecutors will relax their submissions in court.
Opposition activists and human right defenders have petitioned authorities to make the hearing of the high treason case against Andrey Haydukou open to the public. The petitioners stress that they are strongly opposed to the hearing being held behind closed doors. “We believe that making this politically motivated case secret is an attempt to conceal from the public the details of the investigation and the lack of evidence,” the petition said.
The petition is addressed to Valiantsin Sukala, chairperson of the Supreme Court of Belarus, Prosecutor General Aliaksandr Kaniuk and Valery Vakulchyk, head of the Committee for State Security.