Joint statement in connection with the detention of Belarusian lawyers Ilya Salei and Maksim Znak
Lawyers for Lawyers has signed a joint statement alongside 63 other signatories, expressing concern about the detention of lawyers Ilya Salei and Maksim Znak. In the statement, Lawyers for Lawyers and the signatories urge the Belarusian authorities to immediately release both lawyers.
Ilya Salei and Maksim Znak were detained on 9 September 2019. Ilya Salei is a lawyer of Maria Kolesnikova, one of the leaders of the Belarusian protest movement and a member of the Presidium of the Coordination Council, who is also in jail. Maksim Znak was representing Viktor Babariko, who ran for the President of the Republic of Belarus, but was not allowed to register as a candidate and was recognized as a political prisoner. Maksim Znak was also an attorney for the former presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, on whose behalf he created the Coordination Council. As a member of the Presidium of the Coordinating Council, Maxim Znak was providing legal assistance as an attorney.
According to information posted on the website of the Main Investigation Department of the Investigative Committee of the Republic of Belarus, “the investigation of the criminal case was opened by the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Belarus under Part 3 of Art. 361 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus. At the moment, in the course of the investigation, evidence has been obtained that testify to the commission by individuals of a non-governmental organization called the Coordination Council, of actions aimed at destabilizing the socio-political, economic situation and public awareness in the country, causing harm to the national security of the Republic of Belarus. These actions were carried out using the media and internet resources. With regard to the suspects Maria Kolesnikova and Maksim Znak, with the approval of the prosecutor, a preventive measure was chosen in the form of detention. Ilya Salei was also detained on suspicion of committing this crime.”
In the statement, the signatories urge the authorities of Belarus to immediately release Maksim Znak and Ilya Salei and comply with international legal standards of the independence of legal profession and the exercise of the right to defense. Moreover, the authorities are uged to stop the persecution of lawyers and attorneys who are exercising their constitutional right of freedom of expression by expressing their opinions8 while performing their professional functions. Lastly, the authorities are called upon to strictly observe the provisions of Art. 62 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus.
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