Belarusian human rights activists detained on suspicion of involvement in terrorist attack

Belarusian human rights defenders and journalists have been detained on suspicion of involvement in the act of terrorism on the Minsk metro. This is stated in the report of the International Observation Mission of the Committee on International Control over the situation concerning human rights in Belarus.

“On 19 April in Minsk were detained human rights activist and member of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Pavel Levinov, freelance journalist Oleg Borshchevskii, the leader of the organisation “Our House” Olga Karach, and the journalist and human rights activist Valerii Shchukin. At the moment, according to police officers, Pavel Levinov is being detained for 10 days on suspicion of involvement in the terrorist attack on 11 April,” it is reported in the statement.

The International Observation Mission explained that about 11:00 local time in Minsk, police officers came to the Minsk flat of Shchukin’s relatives, in which he and his friends were situated at that moment. Upon checking the documents of those present, the policemen left. Later they returned and carried out a search in the flat. When Shchukin asked them to show their search warrant, police officers “put the corridor under siege.” Vitebsk human rights defender Pavel Levinov, who at that time was in Minsk, drove to the place where this was going on in order to provide legal assistance.

At approximately 12:00 Levinov told colleagues at the Helsinki Committee on the telephone that he had been detained. At around 16:00 police officers told the Chairman of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Oleg Gulak, by telephone that Paul Levinov had been detained for 10 days on suspicion of involvement in the terrorist attack on 11 April. Later Gulak said that in respect of all detainees, administrative protocols had been applied for using foul language.

On 13 April, President Aleksandr Lukashenko announced that the case of the terrorist attack had been solved. “Security forces and the police only needed one day in order to carry out a brilliant operation, and without noise, shooting and fireworks to arrest the perpetrators. We already know who committed this act of terror and how it was done. So far, we only do not know why,” he said. According to the president, those who carried out the terrorist attack were involved in other bombings within the territory of Belarus. “On their conscience are the attacks on Independence Day, July 3 and in Vitebsk. It is monstrous, but the fact is: all of these wretches who committed the crime were working in specific work collectives – one as a turner, one as an electrician,” said Lukashenko.

According to him, those who ordered the crime are now being sought. “I have ordered a review of all statements from political leaders. We are looking for accomplices and those who ordered the action. These figures from the so-called “fifth column” perhaps will reveal their cards and indicate who ordered the action,” said Lukashenko at a meeting. “We need to catch and interrogate them all, not looking to any democracy, the moaning and wailing of foreign martyrs,” declared the President of Belarus.

An explosion in a subway station “Oktyabrskaya” took place on 11 April at 17.58 local time in the second carriage on the platform near the exit to the interchange with the station “Kupalovskaya” and to the city in October Square. According to preliminary data from the Prosecutor’s Office, the radio-controlled explosive device had the power of at least 3 kilograms of TNT.

“An explosive device containing chopped fittings, nails sized 80×8 millimetres and metal balls with a diameter of 15 millimeters, was found by a bench placed on the platform,” the KGB has reported. The explosion led to the formation in the concrete floor of the platform of a funnel shaped hole. The blast partially destroyed the ceiling and the walls of the escalator. The escalator is also out of order. A criminal case under Article 289 of the Criminal Code of Belarus (terrorism) has been made. 13 people were killed, 192 people were injured.