A year ago – on August 24, 2018 – the Sovietsky District Court sentenced Gennady Fedynich, the chairman of the independent REP Trade Union, and Igor Komlik, the former chief accountant of the union, the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Viasna" reports.
Both were found guilty of "tax evasion" (Part 2, Article 243, of the Criminal Code) and were punished by freedom restraint (without imprisonment) for four years, without property confiscation, and a ban on holding managerial positions for five years. Besides, the court ruled to collect from them BYN 47,560 and legal expenses in the amount of BYN 1400.
The verdict announced, the Belarusian human rights community made a statement calling on the authorities to review the verdict and stop the criminal prosecution of Fedynich and Komlik, as well as to stop pressure on the independent trade union movement and abandon the illegal interference in its activities.
The international community stood in defence of REP leaders. Thus, the Observatory for Rights Defenders' Protection claimed that the authorities' actions violate Belarus' international obligations in the field of human rights and the country's own Constitution; therefore, the conviction should be abolished as a result of the appeal.
In the opinion of the "Front Line Defenders", an international human rights organization, the persecution of union leaders is solely related to their peaceful and legitimate work in the field of human rights protection. Therefore, the Belarusian authorities should immediately reverse the sentences against the REP leaders, Gennady Fedynich and Igor Komlik, and fully restore their freedom.
The leaders of the IndustriALL Global Union and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) have urged the president of Belarus to abolish the punishments imposed on the REP leaders.
However, on November 9, 2018, the Minsk City Court upheld the verdict; and the appeal complaint was rejected.
Now, rights defenders have prepared a documentary "One Day of Chemist Fedynich", which will be presented next week.
Let us remind you that Gennady Fedynich was detained on August 2, 2017. Searches were conducted in his apartment and his workplace; and information carriers and documents were seized. The REP's office was arrested. Later, Fedynich was released under recognizance not to leave the country.
A criminal case was also brought against Igor Komlik, the chief accountant of the REP Trade Union. Agents of the Department of Financial Investigations of the State Control Committee of the Republic of Belarus searched the houses of Igor Komlik, Gennady Fedynich, Leonid Schukin and Natalya Pichuzhkina, as well as the REP's office and the central office of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union (BNP) in Soligorsk. Computers, phones and financial documents were seized.
According to the official information of the State Control Committee of the Republic of Belarus, during the audit conducted within the framework of the criminal case, it was found that "the chairman and the chief accountant of the trade union had opened accounts in foreign banks on behalf of the trade union, to which large amounts of money were constantly sent". In 2011, non-residents of Belarus deposited money in foreign currencies to the account in Lithuania in the total amount of EUR 140,000. According to the Department, the amount of unpaid taxes made BYN 22,867.10.
Igor Komlik was kept in custody from August 2, 2017 to October 2, 2017. He was also released under recognizance not to leave the place.