5 March 2021
Prilutsky links his criminal prosecution with his opposition activities as a member of the Belaruskali strike committee
Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre
Belarus is demanding the extradition of 38-year-old Andrei Prilutsky on charges of violence against police officers (Article 364 of the Russian Criminal Code), an offence which carries a penalty of up to six years in prison.
According to the prosecution, Prilutsky used violence against two police officers at a rally in Soligorsk, Minsk region, on 9 August 2020, the day of the Belarusian presidential election. According to Prilutsky’s defence, he was assaulted when he tried to protect an acquaintance from being arrested.
The episode, which forms the basis of the charges against Prilutsky, is most accurately reflected in a video of the arrest. It is clear from this video that the prosecution version is incorrect. For example, the prosecution alleges Prilutsky was arrested during a rally which took place two hours after his arrest and 500 metres from the place he was detained.
Also, according to the prosecution, the victims are police officers Sharovar (then wearing civilian clothes) and Mikhed (wearing a black, unmarked uniform). However, the defence argues that Mikhed was not involved in these events at all and he is not in the video. The Belarusian activists coordinating Prilutsky’s defence claim it is common practice in Belarus for officers who actually arrest a person to remain unidentified, while local police officers testify in their stead as though they had carried out the arrest. This appears to be the case with the police officer Mikhed, who on 9 August 2020 alone appears as a victim in approximately eight criminal cases with regard to events that took place very close to each other in terms of time. It would appear he was assaulted every ten minutes that day.
Prilutsky’s version is largely consistent with the video. He explains he did not know that the person in civilian clothes was a police officer and that the lawfulness of the arresting officers’ actions, as well as their affiliation, were not obvious to him. Therefore, he tried to prevent them from arresting his acquaintance, an arrest for which there were no grounds, but he was assaulted by them. Prilutksy believes the criminal prosecution, initiated only three months after the events, is related to his opposition activities as a member of the Belaruskali strike committee. It is for this reason that he left Belarus for the Russian Federation. In Russia he was arrested and is currently in custody awaiting decisions on his extradition to Belarus and his application for refugee status.
Given the evident contradictions and inconsistencies in the prosecution’s evidence, Prilutsky’s involvement in opposition activism, and also the general context of the situation in the Republic of Belarus, there are clear signs the prosecution case against Andrei Prilutsky has been fabricated and is politically motivated on the grounds of the defendant’s opposition activities.
A more detailed description of the case and the position of Memorial Human Rights Centre can be found on our website.
On the basis of the above, Memorial considers Andrei Prilutsky a political prisoner and demands that the request to extradite him to Belarus be refused and that he be immediately released from custody and granted political asylum in Russia.
Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner or as a victim of politically motivated prosecution does not imply Memorial Human Rights Centre agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.
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Translated by Simon Cosgrove