Viktar Babaryka left in KGB custody, defence reports impediments

Might-have-been presidential candidate Viktar Babaryka does not seem to be released from the notoriuos KGB prison Amerykanka in the near future.

The Belarusian State Security Committee (KGB) extended the term of investigating Babaryka’s case and, consequently, his being in custody, Russia-controlled news portal reported on September 21, citing a source ‘familiar with the matter’. The source said the decision might have cussed by the public interest in the situation of Viktar Babaryka. According to him, the investigation was classified; it is not even known how many people have been charged as part of the case.

“Of course, their defence lawyers repeatedly filed appeals to change the measure of restraint. But it is more than likely that only one person was allowed to be kept under house arrest,” the source added.

On Tuesday, Babaryka’s lawyer Dzmitry Layeuski has said that the General Prosecutor’s Office ignored the evidence and arguments presented by the defence team. No significant investigative activities have been carried out since August, he stressed. According to the lawyer, the way the charge was formulated makes it impossible to understand what illegal actions Viktar Babaryka is accused of, which complicates the work of the defence.

“The wording of the accusation provokes objections in point of law, it is not known what facts and what legal norms became the basis for it,” RFE/RL quotes Dzmitry Layeuski.

In the event of a public trial, the innocence of Viktar Babaryka will be obvious to one and all, he believes.

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

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.

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).

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