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Pinsk man wins court battle against local police over illegal detention

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Andrei Vabishchevich. Photo: media-polesye.by

"I was on my way to a construction materials shop. I needed to check prices because I wanted to buy new tiles," Pinsker Andrei Vabishchevich recalls what happened on Sunday, 26 April 2017. However, Andrei was not able to compare the prices because he was detained by a police officer on the steps of the shop. The officer told him he had received a radio message from the central station that protesters from the nearby 'rally of non-freeloaders' were escaping the police and trying to hide in this shop.

What happened next was in the spirit of Belarusian surrealism. The officer did not believe Andrei that he was called Andrei, took him into the police vehicle. At the police station, the officer identified Andrei, made an interrogation report and let him go. Four days after, another officer called and invited him to talk at the station. During the conversation, the policeman pulled an already written report about Andrei's participation in the unauthorized rally!

"I was shocked! You know, when I read about such things earlier, I thought it might not be totally true. But I had to go through all this myself. It is absolutely real that six police officers can lie against you. One should not leave it unpunished," Andrei says.

Vabishchevich did not agree with the police report. He quickly hired a lawyer and walked around the neighborhood to check CCTV cameras that would record his movements on that day. 

During the hearing in court, officers from the organized crime unit acted as witnesses. They convinced the court that at 1230 Andrei was taking part in the unauthorized rally. However, at that time, he was sitting in the police station where CCTV cameras were not functional for some reason. However, the court watched the footage from the other CCTV cameras where Andrei could be clearly seen, including at the moment he was detained on the steps of the shop at 1215. As a result, the court took the side of Vabishchevich.

On 26 September, the Pinsker filed a suit agaist the Pinsk police department officers, seeking to refund the money he spent on the lawyer - BYN 370 ($135). It is noteworthy that the 'social parasites tax' is BYN360.

At this point, Part 2 of Belarusian surrealism show begins. The Pinsk city police department is funded from the state budget. Therefore, damages should be compensated by the Ministry of Finance. The latter protests stressing that they could pay the money only if the actions of the police were illegal. But the police of course acted within the scope of laws! The police officers who detained Andrei did not show up in court. A letter from the prosecutor's office says that the actions of the police officers were recognized as illegitimate. The court once again took the side of Vabishchevich and ordered the treasury of Belarus to compensate the Pinsker's expenses on the lawyer and court fees.

Andrei says that in March 2017 when non-freeloaders' protests were in full swing, he was busy liquidating his own firm and knew nothing about the protest. Currently, he, trained as a construction engineer, is jobless. 

"If there is a situation when I need to express my civic position I will now take part in a street rally," Vabishchevich says. 

This is not over, yet. The Pinsk inter-district prosecutor's office suddenly changed its mind and filed a cassation appeal with the Brest Regional Court.

 

Aleh Vouchak, head of Legal Aid to the Population center, who helps Andrei Vabishchevich in his court battle against the arbitrariness of Pinsk policemen, describes the motion of the prosecutor's office as incorrect. He reckons that the prosecutor's office tries to use any insignificant detail to be able to file an appeal. This way, the prosecutor's office bides time, because there is usually no money in the state budget at the end of the year.

Lifehack: what to do when you unexpectedly become a subject of administrative proceedings:

1. As soon as a police officer opens administrative proceedings against you, write a complaint to the prosecutor's office against the actions of the police officer who infringed on your rights. Demand to close the case. Complaints are filed free of charge.

2. Appeal the police reports drawn by the police officers with the police department seniors. If a court hearing took place but you were not aware of it, appeal the court ruling in regional or higher courts. If the terms are missed, it will be a pretext to resume the case.

3. File motions and collect evidence in the process that you are non guilty. Evidence may include: written inquiries, footage from CCTV cameras, wintesses (name, last name, phone number, home address - the best thing would be to bring the witness to court).

Euroradio will continue to follow Andrei Vabishchevich's story.

Aleh Vouchak's photo by bymedia.net