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Trial of journalists Pavel Sheremet and Dmitry Zavadsky due to begin

(RSF/IFEX) - The trial of Pavel Sheremet, the Minsk bureau chief
of the Russian television station ORT, and cameraman Dmitry
Zavadsky is set to begin on 17 December 1997 in a regional court
in Ochmiany. The two journalists are charged with "having crossed
illegally and in a group the State's border according to a
premeditated plan" (Article 80, section 2 of the Belarusian Penal
Code) (see also Background, below).

**Updates IFEX alerts dated 10 October, 9 September, 6 August, 31
and 28 July 1997**

On 25 November, judge Boris Raguimov submitted all documents
pertaining to the investigation to the prosecutor of Grodno who,
in turn, transferred them the day after to the court in Ochmiany.
On 4 December, Mikhail Voltchek, Sheremet's lawyer, submitted a
written request denouncing the absence of evidence against his
client. On 8 December, the president of the court,
Vitali Kazakevitch, learned that the date of the trial had been
set without his knowledge. He was therefore unable to assess
Voltchek's request.

By having the trial in the border town of Ochmiany, Belarusian
authorities have made it difficult for journalists to attend.
Moreover, the journalists must also obtain special authorisation
to cover the proceedings.

Background Information

On 22 July, Sheremet, Zavadsky and their driver, Iaroslav
Ovtchinikov, reported on the Lithuanian-Belarusian border area.
On 26 July, the trio was arrested and detained in Grodno.
Ovtchinikov was charged with "complicity in violating the
border"; he was released on 6 August. On 4 September, Zavadsky
was released. Sheremet was freed on 8 October pending trial (see
IFEX alerts).

Recommended Action

Send appeals to authorities:
  • expressing concern over the legal and other conditions in which
    the trial against Pavel Sheremet and Dmitry Zavadsky is to take
  • indicating that the accelerated judicial process as well as the
    obstacle put in place against the media do not augur well for the
  • expressing hope that the trial will be conducted fairly and in
    complete transparency

    Appeals To

    His Excellency Alexander Lukashenko
    Minsk 220010, Belarus Republic
    Fax: +375 172 23 58 25 / 22 38 72 / 22 32 84

    Valentin Agolets
    Minister of Interior
    Minsk, Belarus Republic
    Fax: +375 172 23 99 18

    Aleh Bozhelko
    Procurator General
    Minsk, Belarus Republic
    Fax: +375 172 26 41 66

    Yuryy Zakharenka
    Minister of Internal Affairs
    Minsk, Belarus Republic
    Fax: +375 172 26 12 47

    Ivan Antonovich
    Minister of Foreign Affairs
    Minsk, Belarus Republic
    Fax: + 375 172 27 45 21

    Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

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