ALES BIALIATSKI’S CLOSING STATEMENT IN COURT, NOVEMBER 23, 2011 (COMPLETE TEXT)

“I agree with every word spoken by my lawyer. I believe that the arguments he put forth have sufficient legal basis and sufficient reason to be taken seriously. At the same time, I find myself in a difficult position because I understand very well that this case has carried a political subtext from start to finish. My lawyer’s speech and these final words of mine unfortunately remind me of a voice screaming to be heard in a wasteland. I feel like I am screaming in a wasteland and trying to get my voice to reach the sun. But nevertheless I do have something to say.”

On the Political Context of Prosecution for Human Rights Activities

“I suppose I will start by saying that literally right before I was taken into custody, my friend gave me an old Soviet book to read about countermeasures the KGB took against human rights defenders in the USSR. This book was written in the 1980s. It was quite interesting because much of what is described in it parallels what has been happening in Belarus in recent years. I would like to identify the main tasks that intelligence agencies set out for themselves at that time. The first was to discredit human rights defenders and declare them parasites, which is what happened in the case of the poet Joseph Brodsky. Or engage in mudslinging and show their lack of independence, as they did with Andrey Sakharov. Or accuse them of financial schemes, which is what happened to Vasily Aksenov. Or simply say that they are insane, which was the case with the Belarusian human rights defender Mikhail Kukobako, who was confined to a mental hospital for six years because he distributed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Belarus. Forty years have passed. As unbelievable as it may be, the situation is repeating itself. In these past three-and-a-half months I have felt like I have returned to the USSR, only this reincarnation of everything that happened before is taking place at some different level.

On January 17, KGB officers (young men around the age of 35) drove me to Rakov to search our house, which is located there. The trip took about an hour, and I tried to draw them into conversation. I asked: “Why are you using the old methods? Why are you blackmailing people to recruit them? Why are you conducting searches? Is the information that we report online really not enough for you?” Because as human rights defenders, we are quite open. All you need to do is visit Viasna’s website (as our respected fellow citizen the public prosecutor confirmed himself) to find out plenty of information about our activities, like what we are working on and what our goals and methods are. Over this past year I alone have given four lengthy interviews and made dozens of different statements in the mass media, including online, which together give a fairly complete picture of our work. Take a close look at this information and you will know what human rights defenders are engaged in doing. Well, that got them sufficiently rattled up, and they started talking about how the old methods are also good and how they were following what they had been taught. Well, I do not believe that the KGB and other state security services that have been and are interested in Viasna’s activities have no idea whatsoever about what Viasna does or what I in particular do as its president. If they actually see human rights defenders, and specifically Viasna, as a channel for funneling funds into Belarus to “finance the radical opposition,” which is what Major General Veger wrote in his letter… The only thing I would like to know is where they found this radical opposition in Belarus! If only they could show us!  In this case I think that this is a mistake on their part and a sign of their unprofessionalism, and that this is one of a series of spooky fairy tales like the ones we heard in 2006, when KGB Chairman Sukhorenko told us how the radical opposition was planning to poison Minsk’s drinking water with dead rats. I believe that the KGB knows and understands very well what human rights defenders, and myself in particular, are working on in Belarus, and it works against human rights defenders with deliberation and purpose, making use of any methods it has at its disposal to persecute them.

This harassment has been organized well under the established regime. It’s enough to look at 1998-1999, when the first re-registration of non-governmental organizations took place. Hundreds of organizations were not re-registered, including Viasna-96. Credit for this goes to the Ministry of Justice. Civil society, which had just started to find its footing and take its shape in the 1990’s, began to feel enormous pressure from the state. At the same time, charitable foundations were thrown out of Belarus and the possibility of legally funding non-governmental organizations was sharply curtailed. The president’s Administration also had a hand in this. An entire campaign to shutter NGOs took place in 2003-2004, when approximately 400 organizations were shut down, including the Human Rights Center Viasna and several other human rights organizations. Even though the UN Human Rights Council ruled that Viasna’s registration should be renewed, the state nevertheless chose to ignore this. Both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice had a hand in this. Attempts to register in subsequent years were also denied, with the Ministry of Justice failing to see the need for the existence of human rights organizations in Belarus. In 2006, Article 193-1 was brought into force. This article in the criminal code stipulates prosecution for the illegal organization of activities of unregistered organizations, which is absolute nonsense, since no other countries in the world have a code like this. Not one post-Soviet country prosecutes people for activities performed on behalf of unregistered organizations [Bialiatski says this, looking at the judge – ed.]. I will remind you that these changes in criminal law were proposed, once again, by the chairman of the KGB. Incidentally, literally two weeks ago the Venice Commission issued an opinion that these changes in the Belarusian Criminal Code are inconsistent with international agreements [at these words, the judge raised his brow, either in surprise or in interest, as if he were hearing this for the first time – ed.] signed by Belarus that relate to civil and political rights. The year 2011 was exceptional in this sense. An honest-to-goodness campaign of harassment was organized against the Human Rights Center Viasna and against me as its president. They were also hoping that Valentin Stefanovich would end up behind bars, but they didn’t have any luck with that.

All this, of course, comprises the political context of my prosecution for human rights activities.”

On the Attitude of the Authorities towards Human Rights Defenders

“It is no secret that an authoritarian government has formed in Belarus that sees no place for human rights defenders in the country. The refusal to register human rights organizations is directly connected with this. Over these years, many of my friends and colleagues have been removed from their official places of work. They have been prosecuted in administrative proceedings and in other ways. Unfortunately, the government does not tolerate competition. It persecutes political opponents and places limits on the civil and political rights and freedoms of citizens—the right to assemble, protest, associate, and receive and impart information, as well as the right to free and fair elections. The government does not allow civil society to develop, but instead destroys it. The will of society has been paralyzed in recent times. And people, the majority of whom are under work contracts, are living under pressure, under fear. The government does not tolerate criticism—it prosecutes journalists and human rights defenders. And trials that are currently in progress, like Andrei Pochobut’s and mine, serve as confirmation of this. These are trials with the same framework, although officially with ostensibly different sources. And, as I see it, the main contradictions and intrigues lie in the fact that all these activities of the government contradict both the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus and international agreements to which Belarus is party as an independent state that inherited the obligations once undertaken by the Soviet Union. Both my colleagues and I have spoken about this. We are speaking about this and we will continue to speak about this, because this is where the truth lies.

Let us recall that Article 36 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus guarantees the right to freedom of association, which is being violated, that Article 34 guarantees the right to receive and impart information, that Article 33 guarantees the right to freedom of opinions and beliefs and their free expression, and that Article 59 obligates government bodies to take all measures necessary within the scope of their competence to defend the rights and freedoms of citizens. Furthermore, Article 21 explains that the state must guarantee the rights and freedoms of citizens enshrined in the constitution and the law and specified by the state’s international obligations. These international obligations refer to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the freedom to hold opinions without interference, and the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media, and Article 20, which states that everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. Articles 19 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (which Belarus signed and is obligated to follow) assert essentially the same things.

There is also a document to which I referred earlier—the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms—which deals directly with the work of human rights defenders and which states that everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, meaning holding peaceful meetings and assemblies; forming non-governmental organizations, associations, and groups; joining these organizations, associations, and groups; and participating in their activities. I have the right to know, seek, obtain, receive, and hold information about all human rights. I have to right to publish, impart, or disseminate freely to others views, information, and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms. I have the right to have effective access to participate in the government of my country through the right to submit to governmental bodies and agencies criticisms and proposals for improving their functioning and to draw attention to any aspect of their work. I have the right to offer and provide professionally qualified legal assistance in defending human rights. I have the right to unhindered access to international bodies with competence to receive and consider communications on matters of human rights. Everyone has the right to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights. And Article 13 states that everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to solicit, receive, and utilize resources for the express purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms through peaceful means.

So why did you sign this Declaration? I am asking you as a government official who represents the state [Bialiatski is addressing Public Prosecutor Saikouski – ed.] You shouldn’t have! Withdraw from the UN! Withdraw from the OSCE! Everything will be fine then. It will be clear what kind of country we are living in. In accordance with the obligations it undertook within the framework of the OSCE, Belarus undertook to respect the rights of its citizens who, independently or in association with others, make an active contribution to the development of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to apply all measures necessary for the effective exercise of this right. This comes from the Vienna and Madrid meetings, which were dedicated to matters related to European security. In accordance with the Copenhagen Conference on the Human Dimension, OSCE states agreed to present various opportunities for human rights defenders and civil society to participate in the promotion and defense of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Clearly, the state is violating these rights of citizens. Clearly, trials like mine are of a political nature.

The attitude of the authorities towards human rights defenders in various countries is without exception a litmus test which can determine quite accurately the level of democratic society. Authoritarian regimes are generally not pleased with the activities of human rights defenders. Belarus is not an exception within this group. There are post-Soviet countries, like Uzbekistan, where dozens of human rights defenders are in prison because they were convicted under articles that look much worse than mine. A couple of cartridge shells or five grams of drugs are planted on them, and they are sentenced to 10 years. Eight people from the Uzbek organization that belongs to the International Federation for Human Rights, of which I am vice-president, are currently in prison. Russia has the Northern Caucasus, where human rights defenders are simply killed. Our good friend Natalya Estemirova was shot in such a way in Chechnya. There is Kirgizia, where human rights defenders are harassed by obscure militant groups. And then there is Belarus, with the “plausibility” of this prosecution. Therefore I assert that these accusations of some vague financial violations, of tax violations, are complete nonsense, and that my case is not a customary or common one. Otherwise, this accusation would not have been supported by the department head at the city Public Prosecutor’s Office. And the investigative group would not have consisted of four officers from the Financial Investigations Department, who, by the way, felt very out of place, since this case was obviously something they had absolutely no need for whatsoever. Similarly, there would not have been the commotion outside the courthouse that we have observed over the course of this trial, and I would not have always been escorted from Volodarki by the traffic police. When I walk out of the prison, the people who are driving me that day start to joke about how they will be driving with flashing lights again!”

On the Campaign to Discredit in the Official Mass Media

“I need to speak separately about official mass media outlets that have also devoted a great deal of attention to this trial and to me in particular. Belarus segodnya, the official state newspaper, which is printed with funds from all taxpayers, wrote on August 6: “Officers specializing in financial investigations have long held information, and can state with confidence, that Mr. Bialiatski independently controls large amounts of money. They say these amounts reach into the millions of euros… It appears possible that today’s ardent human rights defenders have gained decent personal dividends from this battle.” The news from August 10: “Bialiatski keeps large amounts in accounts in Vilnius, which he transfers to Minsk, probably using cards. Bialiatski is officially listed as unemployed and officially has not even one kopeck of income. Officially, Bialiatski has nothing to his name… He also has in his reserves a nice piece of land, which is also in a beautiful spot.” This piece of land is a flood plain where nothing can be built because it is protected as a nature area. It is located right next to my house. My neighbor’s horses graze there and you can play volleyball there, but that’s about it in terms of the conveniences of this plot. November 17: “He needs to explain how he was able to acquire such expensive property and how this correlates with human rights activities.” We learn what kind of “expensive property” this is from Belarusian television. The channel Belarus 1 reported: “An $8000 Citroën,” which actually cost €2,300 plus customs duties, for a total of €3,000, and was imported here in poor condition. “Apartment renovations totaling $60,000.” What kind of an apartment is this that would require such expenses? The apartment where my wife and I live is 61m2. “He vacations abroad every year and visits expensive restaurants”—this is something all the official mass media outlets have said. There is no other way to look at this information than as direct pressure on the court and the rendering of its decision on this case, which underscores once again the political nature of this case.”

About the Human Rights Center Viasna

“Much has been said during these proceedings about the Human Rights Center Viasna. I am glad of this and would like to add a bit more about this organization, because without an understanding of the work performed by human rights defenders in Belarus, without an understanding of the conditions under which we work, the Supreme Court may not have a clear enough understanding of the motives for our activities and of certain episodes which were examined during the judicial proceedings. The bylaws of Viasna (which no longer operates because it was shut down) state that the activities of this organization shall be guided by the current Constitution of the Republic of Belarus and international agreements ratified by the Republic of Belarus. This is basically how the situation remains. And, as we have seen, the international agreements that Belarus signed allows any citizen of Belarus to fulfill human rights obligations and be a human rights defender. And, having called himself or herself a human rights defender, a person must be a human rights defender and must fulfill human rights obligations. We work within these legal frameworks.

This year marks the 15th year of Viasna’s existence. Our organization has been working under very difficult conditions, particularly since 2006. As a reminder, Viasna was created in the spring on 1996, was registered as a city organization in February 1998, and then as a republic-wide organization in 1999. The activities which Viasna is engaged in and the main lines of its work involve monitoring the Belarusian government’s fulfillment of its constitutional and international obligations in the area of human rights and freedoms. This includes various kinds of activities, like monitoring legislation and practice (how this legislation and these rights and freedoms are fulfilled in Belarus). Naturally, one of the main tasks that we have been engaged in over all these years has been helping victims of political repression. We first started seeing political prisoners here in 1996, which was actually the impetus for the creation of the Human Rights Center Viasna. In this time we have helped thousands of people. Thousands! Sometimes we provided a small amount of assistance, sometimes a significant amount of assistance, and this assistance could take different forms, like collecting and disseminating information. But this was work that no other organization was doing. We also worked on education and outreach, including as part of joint projects with other human rights organizations. This work involved founding the Belarusian House of Human Rights in Vilnius, educating primarily young people, writing reports on the situations with human rights and detention conditions (now I have a great deal of new information on this topic and I think that our report will have to be updated at some point), and monitoring elections.

The shuttering of the Human Rights Center Viasna in 2003 was in fact connected with our monitoring of the 2001 elections. Nevertheless, Viasna became a member of the International Federation for Human Rights in 2004, and I have been vice-president of this organization since 2007, which is evidence of just how effective the work of human rights defenders at Viasna and throughout all of Belarus has been. We are held in high regard. And all the prizes and titles listed here are not the personal deserts of Bialiatski or Viasna. Instead, they serve to emphasize the dramatic human rights situation in the country. In this manner, the international community has drawn the attention of the Belarusian government to the fact that something needs to be changed here. But the Belarusian government is making different decisions, and we can see how it reacts to criticism like this by looking at this trial.

We have tried to register three times: once in 2007 and twice in 2009. Each time the registration process was a fairly complicated procedure for us. It meant preparing bylaws and having a minimum of 60 people come from other regions of the country. The last time we tried to register, over 80 people came to the founding meeting (we can estimate that these people paid about $1000 overall on travel). Renting a space to meet in was another question entirely. We gathered and held our meeting. When the Ministry of Justice read our documents, they said, ‘Aha! Your information is incomplete: one of your founders indicated that he works at a high school, but he should have written ‘higher educational school’; someone else wrote that he is the head of a workshop, but he should have written that he was a section head because that is what is written in the organization chart….’ And these were their reasons! The Supreme Court agreed that there were technical grounds. When we asked the Ministry of Justice for time to correct these mistakes, the Ministry said, “We don’t have the right to do that. We have the right not to give you this time.” This is the attitude that the Belarusian government has to the registration of non-governmental organizations.

Over the past 15 years, particularly in recent years, we have conducted civil campaigns, like a campaign against the death penalty, Stop 193-1, which we worked on with other human rights organizations, and Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections. We observed the 2008 and 2010 elections. We prepared reports, speeches, and briefs. We participated in international conferences. The international activities of Viasna should be noted separately. We participated in human rights missions to investigate the situation with human rights in other countries. We have taken part in international election observations many times, and our members have significant experience conducting elections. They know how elections are held in other countries like Ukraine, Kirgizia, Tajikistan, Russia, and European countries. We have participated in conferences organized by the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the European Union, and the United Nations, as well as at various forums and festivals, where, I would venture to say, we represented Belarus quite honorably. And the importance of human rights defenders in these situations, when Belarus’s reputation abroad, in civilized countries, is extremely poor, is quite significant. Because we were able to show that there are normal people in Belarus, that there are people who understand what human rights are and what democracy is. And in the future, I don’t think that anyone will be able to say that nobody in Belarus did anything for the country during this difficult time. I believe that we are in many ways saving the honor of Belarusians today and that we will continue to do this in the future under any conditions and regardless of our location, whether we are free or in prison.”

2010 as the Year of the Hunt against Viasna

“It can be assumed that Viasna’s activities were illegally and secretly tracked over the course of 2010. Documents presented by the KBG, which served as the basis for auditing my activities and Stefanovich’s activities, are evidence of this. Well, and previous years. The work of the House of Human Rights confirms this. We have at least several admissions that the special services planted young people and students there who would later confess, as it were, to handing over information about the work of this human rights school. We do not know what conclusions the KGB drew from this information, but this evidence did have its place in the investigation.

The anonymous documents that served as the basis for the initiation of this entire investigation were apparently obtained in early 2010 because the dates on the documents were late 2009 and early 2010. But they were only given the go ahead in late October 2010. Why? Naturally, I see a clear connection with the election. Because the 2010 election was announced in September, and we, representatives of various human rights organizations, announced the Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections campaign at the same time. This campaign set as its goal the observation of all stages of the election for consistency with international election regulations and Belarusian election law. An open press conference was held where the structure of these election observations was described in some detail and information was given about how many people would participate and how these observations would be conducted. We were supremely and completely open, endlessly conducting interviews and providing commentary. There was a barrage of information about what our observers saw during these elections. It must be said that this led to a unique situation because the Central Election Commission and geographic election commissions responded to this information. We have dozens of confirmations of such responses. They fixed the problems that our observers pointed out. But, nevertheless, it is my feeling that the alertness of these human rights defenders clearly caused this audit.

On November 3, 2010, in the thick of the election campaign, in the thick of our observations, the letter from Major General Veger to Shved appeared. I remember this correspondence because it was quite interesting. In this letter, the deputy chairman of the KGB wrote Deputy Prosecutor General Shved that “we received an anonymous statement…representatives of the unregistered organization Human Rights Center Viasna have been using funds from abroad to finance the radical opposition…they are using these funds for illegal goals and also for the personal needs of Bialiatski and Stefanovich…” A request was made to fill out an international investigation request and send it to the appropriate agencies in Lithuania to review this information. In his turn, Deputy Prosecutor General Shved forwarded this letter from the KBG to Deputy Chairman of the State Control Committee Veremko with instructions to “conduct an audit of the leaders of the Human Rights Center Viasna in conjunction with KGB officials.” What “in conjunction with KBG officials” means is still a great mystery to me. What exactly they did—if they started listening in on us or something else—is still unclear to me. And of course the events of December 19 ratcheted up the situation. It will be recalled that during the night of December 19-December 20, officers from the Pervomaisk District police department conducted a search of my apartment. They confiscated 17 computers and detained 12 people who had been observing the election. It is surprising to note that none of the papers, documents, or information from these computers ever appeared in this case, even though KGB chairman Zaytsev wrote the following to Zenon Lomat: “as a result, office equipment and documentation relating to the materials of the audit conducted of Viasna leaders were confiscated, and a report on the confiscated materials will serve as the legitimate evidentiary basis in relation to these individuals. The office equipment is located at the Pervomaisk District police department in Minsk. We will inform you of our decision on the matter of initiating a criminal case against Viasna functionaries.”

Naturally, the situation following this was nerve-wracking. The following document, which sheds light on what happened further, is interesting in this context. A report dated December 24, 2010 by senior inspector Major Kulak states that “on November 23, 2010 he had a work meeting with KGB representatives Sinegub and Matskevich”—who I suspect are Viasna’s spymasters—“where they developed lines of activity according to these materials from the audit.” This means that first this meeting took place with KGB officials and then they went to the Public Prosecutor’s Office. November 25, 2010: “a work meeting was held at the Minsk City Public Prosecutor’s Office with citizen Saikouski, who is head of the department for overseeing tax law.” [Ales Bialiatski addresses the following question to Public Prosecutor Saikouski – ed.] It would indeed be interesting if you could tell us what you talked about during this meeting! [here the Public Prosecutor, squirming in his seat and sneering, started trying to redirect Bialiatski’s attention from himself to “the judge” in any way possible—with gestures, looks, and words. – ed.]. Citizen Saikouski specializes in taxes. He holds Article 203 in one hand and Article 243 in the other. He prunes one and hits the other over its head. He prunes one and hits the other over its head. That’s what I think. Approaches like these, which have been used against businessmen, have also been used against Viasna. Major Kulak writes that “during this meeting with citizen Saikouski no elements of crimes under Article 233 could be detected in the activities of Bialiatski and Stefanovich, since there is no evidence of commercial activities or receipt of income from these activities. But it is possible to classify their activities under Article 243 with regard to receiving income. After we received information from Lithuania’s Financial Intelligence Unit, evidence was uncovered during a tax audit of non-payment of income tax on an especially large scale.” So in actuality the entire paradigm of the investigation and all subsequent actions taken by the Financial Investigation Department, as well as the course of the investigation over all those months, were decided on November 25, 2010. Because an audit under Article 233 continued for that entire month, and Kulak writes about this in his report that “during work on the material at the Department of Financial Monitoring requests were made for information concerning Bialiatski, Stefanovich, and their relatives, the activities of the Human Rights Center Viasna, and financial transactions which could be related to the receipt of illicit income from Viasna’s activities. According to the resources, these activities have not been established.  Requests for declarations of Bialiatski’s and Stefanovich’s income and property, as well as a review of the accuracy of the information indicated there, are currently being handled by tax authorities in conjunction with KGB officials…” Again we have KGB officials cooperating with the Department of Financial Investigation and the tax authorities. This is why I assert yet again that this case has been overseen by the KBG from start to finish. The audit under Article 233 did not lead to anything. Accordingly, an audit was conducted through the Ministry of Taxes and Levies. This audit continued until the receipt of supposed data from Lithuania and Poland, which took place only in April.

I would also like to note that other actions showing evidence of the persecution of human rights defenders were taking place at the same time. January 17, 2011— KGB searches of all my residences (at apartments and the house in Rakov), during which certain papers and a notebook computer were confiscated. Where is the information from these papers? They included, by the way, some financial documents which could have been of interest during the investigation. KGB officials apparently decided not to submit them because they may have served as evidence against the version that Mr. Saikouski is officially presenting today. On February 16, 2011, the Prosecutor General’s Office issued me a warning concerning activities on behalf of an unregistered organization. And what these activities could be connected with if not with human rights is impossible to explain.

In parallel, campaigns to discredit were being carried out in the mass media. I would like to make special mention of material that was printed in the newspaper Belarus segodnya immediately after the election, where basically the same documents that were provided anonymously to the KGB for review by the Financial Investigations Department figure. How did Belarus segodnya receive these documents? Perhaps the paper is an arm of the KGB? Then let’s have respected, as it were, Mr. Yakubovich write “Belarus segodnya. An Arm of the KGB” and then print these documents. Nevertheless, these documents appeared sometime in early January. There were also photographs of other documents. Clearly, activities to discredit human rights defenders were taking place at basically the same time.”

On the Charges

“I want to reiterate that I do not give any credence to the bank printouts submitted during the investigation. I do not believe that they are authentic. Even taking this into account, these lines do not show one transfer of funds that is not labeled, and all these labels are evidence that Viasna’s partners were monitoring these funds. The purposes for spending these funds were also noted. It is also obvious that I did not control these funds and that these funds were intended not for me, but for Viasna. As far as the tax inspection reports are concerned, I believe them to be illegal. These reports are based on false information and a complete failure to comprehend the meaning of this information on the part of the officials at the Ministry of Taxes and Levies who compiled these documents.

Between June 16, when a report of this nature was presented to me, and August 4, the day of my arrest, I left and returned to Belarus at least six times. So there are absolutely no grounds to any ideas that I could disappear during the course of the investigation and remain abroad. I feel that I am completely innocent. I would assert that, on the contrary, I was allowed to enter and leave the country freely so that my departure might possibly provide circumstantial evidence of my guilt in evading so-called taxes.

I have been engaged in human rights activities and social activism in general for essentially my entire life. This is the 30th year that I have been working in the area of social activism. The time when I felt more or less free and at ease was from 1991 to 1995. Considering the kind of terrible situation that has taken permanent root in the country over recent years, it was only natural that criminal prosecutions could be launched at any moment, in any year. And now what could have happened has happened. So I do not regret even one single step that I have taken over these 30 years to defend democracy and human rights in Belarus. Everything I did, I did knowingly.

Transcribed from a recording made in court on November 23

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