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October 17 – October 23, 2011

Trial of the terrorist attack follows the “psychological” line

The situation has not changed
Trial of the terrorist attack follows the “psychological” line

Hearings of the terrorist attack case move along the “psychological” line, i.e. the prosecution shows that the explosion was due to the character of the accused. The authorities explicitly have not used the hearings to strengthen their position.

The trial of the terrorist attack in the Minsk metro on 11 April 2011 continues in Minsk with interrogation of the accused and witnesses, as well as examination of materials of the case.

Comment

Hearings of the terrorist attack case move along the “psychological” line, i.e. the prosecution shows that the explosion was due to the character of the accused. The authorities explicitly have not used the hearings to strengthen their position.

The hearing, which takes place in the Minsk Palace of Justice, follows the lead of the preliminary investigation, i.e. that the main motive of the defendant, accused of committing the explosion, was personal, that he was not acting in the interests of political or religious groups. This version had been voiced immediately after the explosion by the Belarusian KGB and became the main lead.

When the trial started, the defendant Dmitry Konovalov confessed of committing two bombings: in Minsk in 2008 during the Independence Day celebrations and in the Minsk Metro on 11 April 2011. He refused to testify against himself. The other defendant, Kovalev, changed his previous statements several times, referring to the pressure, allegedly put on him. Neither of the defendants denies his guilt.

At least at this stage of the trial, there has not been a single fact that could be interpreted as if there was a customer of the attack or government could be involved.

Regardless of some minor inconsistencies in the testimony of witnesses, for example, concerning the detention of suspects, the main lead of the investigation is sufficiently plausible. At least at this stage of the trial, there has not been a single fact that could be interpreted as if there was a customer of the attack or government could be involved.

Contrary to our predictions, the authorities have not used the trial to strengthen their position in the society or to put pressure on the political opponents. However, last week the draft amendments to the Law “On State Security Agencies” have been published, envisaging expansion of powers of the KGB and other intelligence agencies.

It is likely that the MPs will be forced to vote for these amendments as part of the counter-terrorism measures. So far neither the government, nor the opposition is prepared to use the ongoing trial to their advantage, therefore the trial progresses quite objectively.

The September opinion poll in Belarus showed a significant decrease in trust to the law enforcement agencies: by about 8% as compared with December 2010. The least of all citizens trust the Interior Ministry and the KGB: 35.3% and 33.8% respectively.

On the one hand, the openness and objectivity of the hearings during which the court revealed a number of serious shortcomings by the security agencies, could have a negative effect: the distrust to the authorities could increase. The September opinion poll in Belarus showed a significant decrease in trust to the law enforcement agencies: by about 8% as compared with December 2010. The least of all citizens trust the Interior Ministry and the KGB: 35.3% and 33.8% respectively.

On the other hand, the openness of the hearing may produce the opposite effect, i.e. the society will believe the investigation and the prosecution. So far, it seems that the authorities do not have a clear plan how to use this process for their benefit.


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