Minsk: Lawyers barred from visiting jailed presidential hopeful for four days

Defense lawyers have not seen wannabe presidential candidate Viktar Babaryka since June, 20. He is currently being held in Amerykanka, the notorious KGB prison in Minsk.

“To date, there has been no confirmation that a meeting with my client will take place. The lawyers have not had any contacts with him since Saturday, June 20, when procedural actions were carried out in my presence in the KGB pre-trial detention centre,” defense lawyer Dzmitry Layeuski told news agency Interfax.

The authorities have repeatedly refused to let them meet with the defendant, referring to anti-epidemic measures.

Moreover, the lawyers are not being informed of Babaryka’s health state. According to Layevsky, there are some alarming stories appearing on the Internet, and they must make sure in person that these allegations are untrue. They have not yet received any response to their complaints and appeals either.

Viktar Babaryka calls for collecting signatures to amend Constitution

On June 18, Viktar Babaryka and his son Eduard (head of his campaign office) were arrested; their house and flat were searched. On June 20, it became known that charges had been brought against them, but the lawyers did not go into detail, as they had signed a non-disclosure agreement.

As reported earlier, presidential hopeful 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’.

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

At first, the committee said that Viktar Babaryka had ‘no procedural status in the investigation of the criminal case’, the committee’s press service told journalists. Last week, the Belarusian officials claimed they had ‘strong evidence’ of Babaryka’s being complicit in ‘illegal activities’.

In early June, incumbent president Alyaksandr Lukashenka hinted that one of the presidential hopefuls might be involved in fraud. He suggested Belarusian people ask the would-be candidate the following questions: “What is PrivatLeasing?” and “Where do you keep the money you fraudulently got in Belarus?” However, he failed to go into detail and give any name. In turn, Viktar Babaryka said that he knew PrivatLeasing company, since it was a long-time customer of Belgazprombank.

The former banker submitted an appeal to the Central Election Commission (CEC), pointing out the facts of Lukashenka’s alleged violations of the law, but election officials refused to issue a warning to the Belarusian leader.

With over 430,000 signatures collected for his presidency nomination, Viktar Babaryka is currently taking the lead among alternative candidates.

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