"Given that this case has a clear political context, in my opinion, no fair judgement can be expected," Garry Pogonyailo, the famous lawyer of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, told the palitviazni.info website. "Same as we can't hope for a quick consideration of the case."
"Can you somehow predict the final judgement?"
"I can say for sure that there will be a guilty verdict," Mr Pogonyailo continued. "However, you see, Komlik and Fedynich were not in custody during the investigation (Igor Komlik was initially placed in SIZO (pre-trial prison) for two months, but then released. Now, both are under recognizance not to leave, – note of the REP News). This shows that the sentence won't be tough."
"The authorities show that they intend to continue pressing their most 'aggressive' opponents, although trying to restrain their emotions, in order to show a 'candy' to the West. Ten years ago, these union leaders would have definitely been imprisoned for several years; but now, I think, their freedom won't be restricted."
"In general, the war on independent trade unions has been long-standing: unionists were sacked from workplaces, prosecuted, and pressure was exerted on their relatives. Now, we see the 'trade union case' against REP leaders."
"During the investigation, they questioned about 800 REP members…"
"And this is also additional pressure on independent trade unions and on their activists. Therefore, we shouldn't expect mercy from the authorities and the court – there will be no acquittal. Some time ago, Ales Bialiatski, the head of the "Viasna" Human Rights Centre, received a real prison term under the same article. However, the authorities 'burned their fingers' on that case: there was a very tough reaction of the international community; and now, the authorities are not ready to repeat the old scenario. Although they'll try to extort money from trade union leaders – state budget needs money."
"In your opinion, will new political cases appear in the near future?"
"Of course, they will, because the nature of power hasn't changed. It was and is totalitarian, undemocratic and guided by the principles of total control over the society."