Might-have-been presidential candidate’s being in custody extended again

Viktar Babaryka’s being held in the notorious KGB prison was extended to December 18, his attorney Dzmitry Layeuski said on Friday.

According to him, the defence cannot name any legal grounds for keeping the client behind bars.

“There were not any [legal grounds] in June, there are non of them now. No reasons that would justify the need to impose any preventive measure on our client were given in the court rulings and sessions although the law obliges the authorities to do so,” Layeuski stressed.

He also objects to the indictment which ‘does not even mention specific criminal activities’.

“The defense flatly rejects all charges,” the lawyer stressed.

According to Dzmitry Layeuski, Viktar Babaryka is convinced of the rightness of his position; he keeps receiving massive support from Belarusians.

As reported earlier, Viktar Babaryka had been Chairman of Belgazprombank Board since 2000. On May 12, when he revealed his presidential ambitions, he voluntarily resigned from his senior management job. Belgazprombank’s main shareholders from the Russian side are Gazprom and Gazprombank; in this view, Babaryka is often faulted for allegedly being linked to Moscow. At the same time, the prospective candidate has repeatedly put an emphasis on his being Belarusian. In his opinion, it is impossible to build an independent state when there is no solid foundation, i.e. culture and national identity.

‘Forcible takeover’. Authorities get bank linked to Lukashenka’s rival under control

On June 11, officers of the Financial Investigations Department (part of the State Control Committee) came to the head office of Belgazprombank. The department opened a criminal case under Art. 243-2 (large-scale tax evasion) and Art. 235-2 (legalisation of particularly large sums of money obtained through crime). Around 15 top managers and bank employees have been arrested as part of the case. Since June 15, the provisional administration has been in place in Belgazprombank in order to ‘protect the interests of depositors and creditors’, the Belarusian officials state. Viktar Babaryka called placing the bank under the state’s control ‘forcible takeover’.

On June 18, Viktar Babaryka and his son Eduard (head of his campaign office) were arrested and taken to the KGB prison; their house and flat were searched. In late June, Amnesty International recognised them prisoners of conscience ‘persecuted solely for peaceful expression of their political views’. Although hundreds of thousands of Belarusians put their signatures for his nomination, the Belarusian Central Election Commission refused to register Babaryka as a presidential candidate.

In late July, the Prosecutor General’s Office redefined the nature of the charge against the incumbent president’s imprisoned competitor. According to the press service, when being Head of Belgazprombank, Viktar Babaryka received rewards totalling to 28 mln rubles from representatives of for-profit businesses; then he distributed the funds among the top managers of the bank. Thus, the prosecutors refiled the charge from Article 431-2 (active bribery) to Art. 430-3 of the Criminal Code (passive bribery).

Two political prisoners released in wake of Lukashenka’s visit to KGB prison