Siarhei Dyleuski, Minsk Tractor Works strike committee representative, sentenced to 10 days of arrest despite plea by General Director

25 August 2020, 15:44 | TUT.BY

Siarhei Dyleuski
Source: Daria Buryakina, TUT.BY

On August 25, the Zavadski District Court considered the case Siarhei Dyleuski, the detained employee of Minsk Tractor Works (MTW) and the member of the Coordination Council. Siarhei was detained near the plant building yesterday, while he was having a meeting with his colleagues. They were discussing the situation at MTW, including the strike. In the court, it became apparent that the employees of the Partyzanski District Office of Internal Affairs had been carefully studying workers’ messaging in the Telegram-channel “MTW 97%”. The police interpreted Siarhei Dyleuski’s actions as organizing an unauthorized event. And although the police witnesses could not remember who said what at the meeting, the judge sentenced Dyleuski to 10 days of arrest.

On August 24, at about 11 a.m. near the Minsk Tractor Works building, OMON [riot police] detained two members of the Coordination Council: Volha Kavalkova, a confidant of presidential ex-candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, and Siarhei Dyleuski, a representative of the MTW strike committee. The detainees were taken to the Partyzanski District Office of Internal Affairs [hereinafter police office] for filing an administrative offence. However, the case was sent to the Zavadski District Court.

In the temporary detention center on Akrescina alley, where Siarhei Dyleuski and Volha Kavalkova have been kept for the last 24 hours, the coronavirus hasn’t been defeated yet. So the detainees are testifying from the detention center cell via a video call. The trial session itself takes place in the small room of court clerks. People are huddling between a printer and a refrigerator and it’s impossible to maintain safe distance. But according to the judicial assistant to the President of the Court, this is the only office with Internet access in the building.

Siarhei Dyleuski recounts the circumstances of his detention on August 24:

“I arrived to the Minsk Tractor Works building at 11 a.m. I wanted to discuss the situation at the plant with my friends and acquaintances. The plant’s workers came out during the break to talk to us. The Deputy Director for Ideological Activity came to us to answer our questions. And then the police van came and we were detained.”

“Did you discuss the strike and absence from work?” asks Elena Kaptsevich, the judge.

“Yes, everybody talks about it these days,” explains Dyleuski.

“Did you discuss issues of public and political life?”

“No, we discussed the situation at the plant only, that some of us would like to go on a strike and some would not.”

“Who was the initiator of the meeting?”

“The workers. I texted in Telegram [a messenger app] that I would come.”

“How many people participated in the discussion?”

“Up to 40.”

“Did you get permission from the Minsk City Executive Committee for this meeting?”

“You mean permission to meet friends and acquaintances? No, we didn’t.”

As we know from the case file, the report on Siarhei Dyleuski was made by  Alyaksandr Bliznyuk, the Deputy Chief of Partyzanski Public Security Police office. In the court, however, it turned out that Dyleuski’s protocols were changed and rewritten several times. First, the MTW employee was accused of calling people to a rally via an online messenger. Then another protocol was read out in the court, saying that Dyleuski had gathered the workers for a rally and discussed the strike and the socio-political situation in the country with them. The second witness, Aleksey Chuiko, the Patrol Commander of the Partyzanski police office, couldn’t remember exactly what Dyleuski and other participants of the meeting had said. Neither could Bliznyuk.

“How can you not remember? It was yesterday,” asks Daria Lipkina, the attorney.

“There was something about absence from work and a general strike.”

“Have they discussed the activity of the government bodies?” the judge asks the witness.

“I can’t remember this now,” the Patrol Commander responds.

“Well, what about the events of public and political life?” the judge continues.

Siarhei Dyleuski also insists that the police witnesses should make specific statements instead of speaking in general terms and positioning this as if they don’t remember what happened yesterday.

“You are going to condemn me on the basis of assumptions and not the facts now,” Dyleuski resents. “These explanations are not specific. I never heard from the witnesses any specifics on whom I called and what I said.”

During the court proceedings, it became known that the employees of the Partyzanski police office had been carefully reading the workers’ messaging in the “MTW 97%” chat. Some Dyleuski’s remarks were regarded as a call for a rally, particularly those about two options for a strike, either 50 people stop working or workers go on an Italian strike (a strike option when employees perform their duties, but do it extremely ineffectively. TUT.BY).

The court examined the video, which shows the employees of the plant gathering at the entrance of MTW. But in the video, there are no incitements or slogans. The General Director of MTW asked the court not to sanction Dyleuski and to release him into the custody of the plant, so as not to create social tension at the enterprise.

Another important point is that the officers of the Partyzanski police office and the detention center of the Main Internal Affairs Directorate of the Minsk City Executive Committee violated Dyleuski’s right to counsel. Dyleuski repeatedly stated that he had a contract with an attorney and had asked to call him, but every time he was denied that.

“Yesterday, I read about the detention of Dyleuski in the media,” explained Daria Lipkina, the attorney. “I took all the measures to hold the defense. I came to the Partyzanski police office and provided all the documents to enter the trial. I was informed that they had not detained Siarhei and that he had not been delivered to the Partyzanski office. They told me he was in the Zavadski office and I rushed there. In the Zavadski office, I was told that no materials had been received on Dyleuski. So I sent the statement that I was Dyleuski’s attorney to all courts and all the police offices in Minsk. No reaction. Today, in court, they gave me 10 minutes to examine the case file. They forbade me to take photos of the materials and I simply had no time to make dispositions on the case.”

The attorney asked to interview the witnesses who were there at the meeting when Dyleuski had been detained. She wanted to ask the workers of MTW, Volha Kavalkova, and the Deputy General Director of MTW what actually happened and who said what. However, the judge considered that inappropriate.

“There was no rally. It was a meeting of the plant workers with the deputy director,” said Daria Lipkina. “This is proven by the video materials examined in the court. Dyleuski’s rights were consistently violated the right to know what he’s accused of, the right to provide evidence, and the right to counsel. We have no illusion. If the court considers issuing indictment, please note that Dyleuski has two little kids, hasn’t been held administratively liable throughout the year, and takes an active public position. We ask not to impose administrative arrest on Dyleuski.”

The court’s decision is a 10-day term of arrest.