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Henadz Fyadynich

MINSK -- The leader of an independent trade union in Belarus says he and his accountant have been summoned to appear in court on July 30 to face trial on tax evasion charges.

Henadz Fyadynich told RFE/RL on July 17 that he and accountant Ihar Komlik had received written orders to attend the trial at the Lenin District Court in Minsk.

Fyadynich, who is the head of a union representing workers in the electronic products industry, Komlik, and the union they represent were charged with tax evasion in August 2017.

Komlik was then taken into pretrial custody and released in October. Both men were ordered not to leave Minsk while the investigation was under way.

Fyadynich has said that the case against him, his assistants, and the union is politically motivated.

He says the case is connected to the union's role in organizing protests in February and March 2017 against an unpopular labor law imposing a tax on the unemployed.

Activist Viktoria Biran in court in Minsk on July 16

A Belarusian court has found a gay activist who posed for a photo holding a poster guilty of violating public assembly laws in what Amnesty International has called an "absurd new low in persecuting peaceful LGBTI activists."

Amnesty said after a Minsk court issued the verdict on July 16 that a friend of Viktoria Biran took three photos of her standing in front of the Interior Ministry, the State Security Committee, and the House of Government buildings holding a piece of paper with the words “YOU are fake.”

CCTV recordings showed that it took three seconds for Biran and her friend to take the photos, which were later posted on social media, Amnesty said.

“Today's court ruling is simply absurd. Viktoria was ‘protesting’ for three seconds, and she was alone except for a friend who took the photos. It is just not conceivable that this can be taken seriously as a mass protest offense," said Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

“This decision is as unjust as it is wrong and must be quashed as it directly violates the right to freedom of expression,” she said.

The court of the Central District of Minsk found Biran guilty of having breached the “procedure for the organization and holding of mass events” and fined her 367.5 Belarusian rubles ($185).

Amnesty said Biran took the pictures on May 24 to protest against an anonymous article that appeared on the Interior Ministry website four days earlier which stated that the “LGBTI community and all this struggle for their rights, and the very day of the LGBTI community – are just fakes.”

Amnesty said the ministry was apparently reacting to an earlier move by the British Embassy in Belarus to raise the rainbow flag in solidarity with LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transfender, and intersex) people in the country.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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