On February 8 “Almaz” special police force soldiers held a search in the office of Vaukavysk-based firm “Nika-taxi 22222” and in the apartment of businessmen Mikalay Autukhovich, Yury Lyavonau and Uladzimir Asipenka. The businessmen were arrested.
As the press-centre of the Charter’97 has been informed by a human rights activist Aleh Vouchak, searches were held by more than 30 officers of the special police force “Almaz” and of the operational group on organized crime. It is worth mentioning that the persons arrested after the search, Mikalay Autukhovich, Yury Lyavonau and Uladzimir Asipenka, are not directors of the firm, but work as ordinary drivers.
“After bursting into the office, officers stated they were looking for weapons and drugs. They didn’t say why and on what grounds, in the framework of what case! As I was told by witnesses, during the search law-enforcers acted rudely and audaciously, they were beating up the detained and stroke them down to the ground. The director of the firm Liudmila Paremskaya was taken to the office from her house by 7 a.m., but she wasn’t allowed to enter the office. The search was held thoroughly, even the vegetable garden was dug up. They were searching with the help of metal detector. Nothing was found! Nevertheless, Lyavonau, Autukhovich and Asipenka are arrested al the same,” Aleh Vouchak said to the Charter’97 press-centre.
A. Vouchak noted that the detention and search have been held on authorisation of Hrodna region’s prosecutor. In particular, a computer and personal correspondence of Autukhovich were seized.
As said by the human rights watchdog, businessmen were taken to Minsk to the remand prison. Autukhovich managed to inform about that by the phone.
Late at night on February 8 Aleh Vouchak told to the Charter’97 press-centre with a reference to the lawyer of the detained that they are arrested on charged relating article 218 Part 2 of the Criminal Code “intentional destruction or damage of property in a way dangerous for others or which caused large scale damage”. The article envisages restriction of freedom for up to 5 years or imprisonment from 3 to 10 years.
As said by Vouchak, the leaders of small businessmen are formally charged with setting on fire a house of a worker of Vaukavysk police department, Katsuba. The house of the police officer was burnt down 5 years ago in 2004. The human rights activist is sure that detention of entrepreneurs under this article is absurd, and it is just a pretext to arrest them.
As we have informed, on July 7, 2006 Mikalay Autukhovich was sentenced to 3.5 years and confiscation of property for alleged tax evasion which caused large-scale damage to the state budget, and for business activities without registration and receiving a licence. He didn’t plead guilty. Autukhovich believes this verdict is politically motivated. Protesting against unjust crackdown he held hunger strikes many times. One of them lasted for more than 70 days. The entrepreneur lost 40 kilograms and undermined his health greatly.
The businessman Yury Lyavonau, who worked together with Mikalay Autukhovich, was sentenced to 3 years and 5 months of imprisonment.
Under pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and world community who recognized the leaders of small businessmen political prisoners, in the early 2008 the measure of restraint was changed to restruiction of freedom.
The term of punishment for entrepreneurs finishes in June-July 2009.
Mikalay Autukhovich is also one of the co-chairmen of the organising committee for creation of the republican public association of veterans “Defender of Fatherland”, Aleh Vouchak said. The human rights activist connects detention of the well-known businessman with his activism. As we have informed, Autukhovich was one of those who addressed Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Prime Minister Syarhei Sidorski. Participants of the war in Afghanistan demand to establish the status of war participants for veterans of combat operations in other countries, and to return social protection and allowances to them.
Aleh Vouchak does not exclude that in reality detention of M. Autukhovich, Y. Lyavonau and U. Asipenka could be connected with investigation of the blast in Minsk on July 4, 2008. The human rights watchdog has sounded a note of warning that in connection with a necessity to investigate this high-profile case as soon as possible, law-enforcing agencies can simply “appoint” those responsible for the blast.