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Court hearing of the “Trade Union Case” in Belarus

The first day of the court hearing of the “Trade union case”.

Today the hearing started of the case of Gennady Fedynich and Ihar Komlik, chairman and chief accountant of the Radio and Electronics Industry Workers’ Union (REP), an affiliate of the IndustriALL Global Union, dubbed for its political background the “Trade union case”. Fedynich is also a substitute member of the executive committee of IndustriALL.

The trade union leaders are accused of large-scale tax evasion. They may face up to three to seven years’ imprisonment. The investigation lasted ten months, and at least 800 REP members were interrogated by the Investigative Committee of Belarus. According to reports, union members were mostly questioned about trade union activities, rather than about the union’s financial matters.

The case against the union leaders is a clear retaliation against the union’s active engagement on issues affecting workers, like a tax for unemployed. The protests forced the president of Belarus to abolish the decree.

About one hundred people came to support the trade union leaders, including trade unionists, journalists, ambassadors, as well as representatives of the IndustriALL Global Union.

Valery Matov, chairman of of the “Atomprofspilka” Trade Union of Atomic Energy and Industry Workers of Ukraine and a member of the Executive Committee of IndustriALL Global Union,

“IndustriALL’s Executive Committee has decided that such a procedure should be under the close supervision of our representatives. A criminal case is an extraordinary event. The issue was repeatedly discussed at the sittings of the Executive Committee. I would call it a forgery, because such trials – the pressure on trade unions – exist in different countries; there are plenty of examples. This trial, more precisely the circus performance that we see today, is a test case.”

“One thing is clear: there is a re-qualification, an obvious overlapping of one event over the other; they try to put pressure on witnesses in order to get the scenario they want. It’s difficult for me to judge all the witnesses, because we haven’t listened to all of them – just to a few people. I think that the pressure on witnesses is a general trend in those trials, where testimonies are knocked out.”

In conclusion, Valery Matov wished the defendants in the “trade union case” to sturdily pass all the trials presented to them by their fate:

“My colleagues Fedynich and Komlik carry themselves with dignity; let them hold on to the victory; I wish them good luck!”

Sergei Antusevich, deputy chairman of the trade union centre to which REP is affiliated, the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Unions (BKDP), said: “Today we are here to look at the process from within, today is an important day for the entire trade union movement of Belarus, for the entire civil society of Belarus, the matter is that there have not been so far cases like this one.” The BKDP is affiliated to the ITUC.

Gennady Fedynitch gives interview. Photo cortesy of http://praca-by.info

Gennady Fedynitch gives interview. Photo courtesy of http://praca-by.info

According to eyewitnesses, about 50 people were able to enter the courtroom, and as many remained behind the doors. Representatives of the court refused to provide a larger room. The court attendees initiated a collective collection of signatures under the appeal to the head of the court with a request to provide a larger room so that everyone could get to the hearing. 60 people signed the complaint. The complaint was forwarded to the court secretariat.

Igor Komlik entering the court room. Photo courtesy of http://praca-by.info

Ihar Komlik entering the court room. Photo courtesy of http://praca-by.info

The REP trade union organized a video broadcast from the hall in front of the courtroom. A broadcast from the courtroom has been denied so far.

Video from the court session (in Russian):

1) http://bit.ly/2AmO8Ui

2) http://bit.ly/2LygZKD

3) http://bit.ly/2mRIHmH

4) http://bit.ly/2v0mKpR

Full information in Russian about the court session is available on the page of the trade union REP at http://praca-by.info/all-news/item/5880-sud-idet-tekstovaya-i-foto-translyatsiya-suda-po-delu-profsoyuzov

Court room, Photo courtesy of http://praca-by.info

Court room, Photo courtesy of http://praca-by.info

The audience greeted both Fedynich and Komlik with supportive applause when they left the courtroom during the break. Fedynich said that so far in the course of the hearing the judge ignored all three petitions of the defendants. The petitions are: to provide a larger room, holding at least 70 people; to question the defendants before questioning witnesses, and to allow video filming. Fedynich said that if one more petition is rejected, a request will be made to substitute the judge.

Igor Komlik in teh court room, Photo courtesy of http://praca-by.info

Ihar Komlik in the courtroom, Photo courtesy of http://praca-by.info

The interrogation as a witness of the former secretary of the REP started, who admitted that she had been a KGB agent since 2015 and was rewarded for it. The secretary worked in the REP trade union from 2014 to 2016. The judge rejected the protest of the lawyer who said it was not related to the case, which relates to 2011-2012.

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