Updated at 14:28,05-12-2022

Mikalay Awtukhovich to be moved to cell-type prison


A judge of the Ivatsevichy District Court has ordered the transfer of Mikalay Awtukhovich to a cell-type prison, Pavel Sapelka, the former lawyer for the businessman widely viewed as a political prisoner.

In a trial that was held in Correctional Institution No. 5 in Ivatsevichy, Brest region, on Tuesday, the judge found Mr. Awtukhovich, 48, guilty of persistent violations of prison rules.

The ruling means that the man will have to serve the remaining 27 months of his sentence in a prison where there is higher security and more restrictions.

Mr. Awtukhovich was penalized for violating prison rules more than 10 times. "Apart from this, the prison administration believes that he has not stepped on the path of reformation," Mr. Sapelka said.

The former lawyer suggested that Mr. Awtukhovich would be moved from Correctional Institution No. 5 to a prison in Hrodna.

Ahead of the trial Mr. Awtukhovich wrote to his associates that he was ready for a transfer to a cell-type prison and expressed gratitude to all people who support him.

"Although we have not yet won, we have not lost either", he wrote. "A big step forward has been taken. Information about human rights abuse has been made public".

"I protest because I see life how it is in reality, not how the authorities want to portray it. Let them know that not everyone bends under lawlessness and not everyone may be turned into an animal. I don't trade in conscience, I was and remain human, I cannot ignore evil and keep silence," he said.

In December last year, Mr. Awtukhovich was placed in a "cell-type room" in punishment for an unspecified offense. Two days later, he reportedly cut his wrists after being transferred to a room holding people at the very bottom of prison hierarchy who are shunned by fellow inmates.

On May 6, 2010, the Supreme Court of Belarus sentenced Mr. Awtukhovich to five years and two months in a medium-security correctional institution under the Criminal Code's Article 295, which penalizes the illegal handling of arms, ammunition and explosives, because of five hunting rifle cartridges found in his safe.

In his trial, Mr. Awtukhovich, who had already spent more than a year in jail, was cleared of charges of "preparations for an act of terrorism" against Uladzimir Sawchanka, head of the Hrodna Regional Executive Committee, and Deputy Tax Minister Vasil Kamyanko, and of involvement in an arson attack on the house of a former chief of the Vawkavysk district police department.

Opposition activists and human rights defenders believe that the charges against Mr. Awtukhovich were trumped up in revenge for his criticism and corruption accusations. In December 2010, US-based Freedom House entered his name in its list of the world's most important imprisoned dissidents.