Joint letter on the arrest and detention of Leanid Sudalenka
On 5 January 2021, the offices of Leanid Sudalenka, the Chairman of the Homiel branch of the Viasna Human Rights Centre and 2018 winner of the French Republic’s “Liberty- Equality-Fraternity Prize”, were searched by officers from the Department for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption of the Belarus Ministry of Internal Affairs. The search was conducted in connection with a criminal case against opposition activist Uladzimir Nepomniashchykh, in which Mr. Sudalenka was to appear as a witness. During the search over three hundred items were taken, including casefiles and Mr. Sudalenka’s laptop and bankcards. His work computer and more bank cards were taken during a subsequent search of Mr. Sudalenka’s apartment.
After the search, Mr. Sudalenka was taken to the Office for Combating Organized crime and reportedly interrogated primarily about the legal advice provided to those detained, fined and arrested during the post-electoral protests in Homiel.
On 18 January 2021, Mr. Sudalenka was again detained, this time by the Investigative Committee of Belarus as part of a criminal case brought under the Belarus Criminal Code for “organising or preparing actions that grossly violate the public order or taking active part in such actions”. He was denied access to his lawyer for many hours. It was reported by the Viasna Human Rights Centre on 29 January 2021 that Mr. Sudalenka had been charged under the Belarus Criminal Code for “financing actions that grossly violate the public order”. Mr. Sudalenka remains in custody in a pre-trial detention center in Homiel.
Lawyers for Lawyers and the Law Society for England and Wales fear that the detention of and charges against Mr. Sudalenka could be aimed at curbing his legitimate activities as an attorney.
Lawyers for Lawyers and the Law Society for England and Wales urge the relevant authorities to drop all charges against Mr. Sudalenka, unless credible evidence is presented in proceedings that respect fair trial guarantees, to put an end to the acts of harassment against him, and to guarantee that all lawyers in Belarus can carry out their legitimate professional activities free of threat, harassment or improper reprisals.
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