News / 07.08.18

REP News Special Issue, July 30, "trade union case" – Day 1

The reports from the trial in Minsk are made on the daily basis by special correspondents of the and the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Viasna", then edited and translated by Natalia Pichuzhkina for initial publication at the See the footage of Day 1 of the trial.

Member of IndustriALL's Executive Committee: the circus we see today is indicative

Today, on July 30, in Minsk, Belarus, the first court session on the so-called "trade union case" was held. The organizations-members of the IndustriALL sent their representatives to Minsk to observe the trial directly and express their solidarity to the Belarusian independent REP Trade Union and its leaders, who face, under far-fetched charges, up to 7 years in prison.

The first court session in Minsk was attended by activists of the "Atomprofspilka" Trade Union of Atomic Energy and Industry Workers of Ukraine. Valery Matov, its Chairman and a member of the Executive Committee of the IndustriALL Global Union, has shared his impressions of what he saw at the trial:

"I am the chairman of the trade union of workers of nuclear energy and industry of Ukraine, but today I represent the international organization – the IndustriALL Global Union that unites about 50 million unionists – as a member of the executive committee of this organization."

"Valery, in connection with what event are you here today?"

"The 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 [the criminal case, – note of the author] a forgery, because such processes – the pressure on trade unions – exist in different countries; examples are in plenty. This trial, more precisely – a circus performance that we see today, it is indicative. This experience is precious for the IndustriALL to further develop some tactics on how to deal with such phenomena."

"What has made the strongest impression on you today?"

"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 are holding dearly; let them hold on to the victory; I wish them good luck!"

Leaders of REP Trade Union are tried in Belarus: "We are outraged by charges and refuse to plead guilty"

Today, on July 30, in Minsk, Belarus, a trial was launched over the leader of the REP Trade Union Gennady Fedynich and the union accountant Igor Komlik.

They are accused of an "especially large-scale tax evasion" (Part 2, Article 243 of the Criminal Code of Belarus). The maximum punishment under this article is up to 7 years of imprisonment. The investigation lasted for almost a year; more than 800 members of the trade union were interrogated.

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, in particular, of the "Atomprofspilka" Trade Union of Atomic Energy and Industry Workers of Ukraine (a link to the video comment can be inserted here). The courtroom able to house 50 persons failed to accommodate all the comers.

Gennady Fedynich demanded to provide another courtroom and ensure the work of microphones. However, the judge rejected the demand. She also banned media professionals from taking photos and making video recording.

"We are outraged by the accusations. Neither I, nor the REP Trade Union received any profits. I reject all the charges," Gennady Fedynich has stated at the court session.

"I treat the charges as fabricated and mythical," Igor Komlik has supported Gennady. "The statement of our selfish motives is not confirmed by anything." He also said that he would not apply for a replacement of the judge. "It would be untrue to say that I trust you personally. You are a small screw in the system; and you will be replaced by the same screw," Igor Komlik told the judge.

Today, the court listened to a number of witnesses. Some said they had testified under pressure and later rejected their testimonies.

"I was told that a convoy is waiting for me; my son will never see me home again; and I was in a state of shock. On that day, I was taken to three rooms and interrogated by various investigators; and threats were addressed to me in each room. I cannot even remember what testimony I gave. Investigator demanded, in loud voice, to tell what I know about the 'projects'. I was told that if I did not testify, I would be respond for everyone, and I would be placed in jail. I did not understand why I should go to jail. ... One of the investigators began telling me what to write. I do not even remember when I agreed to testify and began writing myself. ... I was told that I had committed a crime," one of the women-witnesses described the interrogation process at the court session."

A stormy reaction of the audience was triggered by the statement of Yulia Yukhnovets, a former secretary of the REP Trade Union. She admitted that since 2015 she cooperated with the KGB (Committee for State Security) as an agent and received remuneration for it. In response, shouts of "ganba" (shame) were heard from the audience, which did not cease for several minutes.

The criminal case against the leaders of the Belarusian Trade Union of Radio Electronics Industry Workers (the REP Trade Union) has a customized political nature and aims to paralyze the work of the REP, one of the most active advocates of Belarusians' socio-economic rights.

The next court session is scheduled for July 31.

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