Andrei Sannikov is sentenced to 5 years of “strict regime”

The candidate for the Belarusian presidency has been sentenced to such a term for protesting against the fasified results of the elections.

The sentence was passed by Judge Natalya Chetvertkova. The prosecutor Anton Zagorovskii had requested that Andrei Sannikov be sentenced to 7 years imprisonment in a “strict regime” prison.

Independent observers explain the harsh sentence on the candidate for the Belarusian presidency as representing personal revenge and the desire of the dictator Lukashenko to settle scores with his most powerful opponent.

According to the testimony of independent observers and human rights defenders, in those polling stations where it was not possible to commit election fraud, Sannikov won clearly and by a wide margin.

On the day before the sentence was passed, Andrei Sannikov appeared in court with a statement which caused a sensation. He told how torture had been used on him in the KGB prison, with degrading treatment, pressure and threats. Military people from an unknown special unit, wearing masks and armed with batons and electric shock rods, had taunted political prisoners in the KGB jail. Throughout all the period of the interrogations they put Sannikov in a cell without a bed; he slept on the floor under the bunks. They subjected him to humiliating searches, forced him to strip naked, put him on a “stretching apparatus”, twisted his hands with handcuffs, and beat him on his legs with batons. The chairman of the KGB, Zaitsev, had “explanatory conversations” with Sannikov and threatened the lives and health of his wife and son.

The lawyers of the politician are convinced that in the course of the investigation, even the very fact that there might have been riots in Minsk on 19 December had not been proven. From the evidence in the case it is evident that the area covered by the disorders was limited to a few tens of square metres near the porch of Government House. On Independence Square a peaceful rally against the falsiified results of the presidential elections took place.

There were no actions which posed a threat to the health of other people. Not one person was injured.

Sannikov was charged under this article wrongfully. In fact there is no evidence that Sannikov intended to organize riots. There were no group attacks or arson or armed resistance to police. The property damaged by provocateurs has been repaired. Police officers themselves permitted the provocation, when deliberately they did not prevent it. The presidential candidates called for a stop to these actions and did not succumb to provocations.

The mass event had an exceptionally peaceful character. The calls to come to the Square and wait for the results of the presidential elections were completely in accordance with the Constitution. During the mass rally, Sannikov called on the representatives of power to enter a dialogue.

Andrei Sannikov was a former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Belarus, who worked in the UN Secretariat and was head of the Belarusian delegation at the talks on conventional and nuclear disarmament. In 1996 he gave up his post as a mark of protest against the referendum to amend the Constitution.