Alyaksandr Kardzyukou declared political prisoner. He got 10 years in jail in wake of witnessing protests-linked murder in Brest

Trial of Alyaksandr Kardzyukou. 19 February 2021. Photo: Belsat

On Friday, the Belarusian human rights community has recognised Alyaksandr Kardzyukou, an eyewitness to the murder of 43-year-old Brest resident Henadz Shutau on August 11, a political prisoner.

Local resident Shutau, a father to five children, was shot in the head during the crackdown on protests in the Belarusian city of Brest. He was then taken in an unconscious state by helicopter to Minsk military hospital, his diagnosis being ‘open penetrating gunshot wound to skull, brain smash injury. Skull cup multifragmental fracture, skull base affected’. It took the relatives two days to find out what happened and where the casualty was located. On August 19, Henadz Shutau passed away in hospital.

On August 12, the Belarusian Interior Ministry reported that ‘a group of aggressive citizens with bars in their hands’ attacked police officers in Brest the day before. Warning shots up did not stop them, the officials claimed. A few days later Alyaksandr Kardzyukou was arrested and then charged with attempted murder (Art. 139-2 of the Criminal Code).

In late February, Svyatlana Kramyaneuskaya, a judge of Brest regional court, passed a guilty verdict and and sentenced Kardzyukou to 10 years in prison. Notably, the deceased Shutau was found guilty of resisting the police. Moreover, the court recognised captain Raman Haurylau who shot down Shutau and warrant officer Arseny Halitsyn who was also involved in the murder as victims in the case.

Witness to Henadz Shutau’s murder faces 10 years in jail

Having studied the court verdict and other available sources of information, experts and lawyers of human rights centre Viasna highlighted the following aspects:

  • there were no riots in Belarus after the presidential election in August 2020, as what we saw were mostly peaceful protests, the participants of which were unjustifiably subjected to ill-treatment and torture, and these grave allegations have not yet been investigated;
  • it was inadmissible and illegal to involve servicemen of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus to perform police functions, including dispersing protests;
  • the right of defendants Kardzyukou and Shutau to a fair trial was violated. The criminal prosecution could have been aimed at demonstratively brutal cessation of protest activity, justification of violations of the order of service and use of weapons by law enforcement officers. The assessment of the evidence in various aspects of the case was either superficial and incomplete or incorrect, in violation of the principle of the presumption of innocence. The application of domestic law in the case and the assessment of the facts and evidence were clearly arbitrary and resulted in a clear error, by which the court violated its obligation of independence and impartiality.

Seven human rights watchdogs called on the Belarusian authorities to immediately review the verdict passed against Alyaksandr Kardzyukou, release him from custody and apply other measures to ensure his appearance in court, given the lack of grounds for stricter measures.

As of May 7, the number of political prisoners in Belarus reaches 371.

‘Shots in silence’: Wounded protester from Brest dies, official version debatable, following