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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06MINSK1162 2006-11-01 03:16:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Minsk
Cable title:  

U.S.-EU AMBASSADORS PRESS FOR ACCESS TO OPPOSITION

Tags:   PGOV PHUM PREL BO 
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1. (SBU) On October 30, Ambassador and EU Heads of Mission
in Minsk continued their assertive and collaborative approach
to spotlighting the Lukashenko regime's politically motivated
imprisonments by coordinating their attempts to gain access
to the criminal trial against Dmitriy Dashkevich, the most
visible leader of the opposition youth organization Malady
Front. Authorities denied access to international observers,
but the Chiefs of Mission spoke with Dashkevich supporters
and independent media and, in so doing, communicated to the
authorities that the U.S. and EU will follow Dashkevich's
trial as closely as the regime's pre&ious politically
motivated show trials. End summary.

Daskevich Arrested, Embassy Requests Access


--------------------------





2. (SBU) On September 24, Belarusian authorities formally
accused Dashkevich of running an illdgal organization, a
charge for which he could receive up to three years in
prison, in connection with pro-democracy demonstrations
during the run up to and immediately after Belarus'
fraudulent March 19 presidential elections. (Note: On
October 24, upon learning that authorities planned to conduct
the trial behind closed doors, the Embassy sent the MFA a
diplomatic note requesting permission to observe Dashkevich's
trial. The Embassy has received the MFA's formal
acknowledgMent, but no definitive answer. End note.)

U.S. and EU Meet with Dashkevich Supporters


--------------------------





3. (SBU) Following consultations with German Ambassador
Martin Hecker, who represents the Finnish EU presidency in
Minsk, Ambassador and the Heads of Mission (HOMs) of Germany,
Sweden, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic arrived
simultaneously at the Oktyabrskiy District Court. Despite
the freezing temperature and the presence of OMON special
riot police, about 60 activists, wearing red and white Malady
Front T-shirts, stood in two rows on either side of the court
entrance and held red and white roses and images of
Dashkevich. As Ambassador and her European counterparts
walked between these rows to approach the authorities at the
entrance, the activists began cheering and chanted "Freedom
to Dashkevich!"



4. (SBU) While Ambassador waited at the court entrance for
authorities to respond to her request for access( she
communicated her sympathies to Dashkevich's father and
several Dashkevich supporters at the courthouse. She also
consulted with the EU HOMs and OSCE representatives and
greeted the leaders of the opposition United Democratic
Forces cnalition, including coalition leader Aleksandr
Milinkevich, Milinkevich's wife and NGO leader Inna Kulei,
United Civic Party Chair Anatoliy Lebedko, and Belarusian
Popular Front Chair Vintsuk Vyachorka. Ambassador also spoke
with the mothers of former independent NGO "Partnership"
political prisoner Enira Bronitskaya and Bronitskaya's still
imprisoned Partnership colleague Nikolay Astreyko. Former
"Partnership" political prisoner Aleksandr Shalayko was also
present at the courthouse.



5. (SBU) After repeated polite requests for access, court
authorities eventually permitted Ambassador, OSCE
representatives, and German diplomats permission to enter the
courthouse. However, GOB security at the doors of the
courtroom denied our requests to enter. Ambassador remained
at the courthouse for almost an hour to speak with Dashkevich
supporters and observe the growing number of activists who
had begun clapping and marching in a circle as they continued
their chant. Most of the activists appeared to be of college
age; however, several older acquaintances of Dashkevich's
father also participated in the protest.

Ambassador Speaks with Independent Media


--------------------------





6. (SBU) In response to questions from independent
journalists observi.g the trial, Ambassador stated that the
diplomatic missions of the United States and the European
Union were following t`e trial closely. She expressed regret
that the trial was closed, noting that the closure
disadvantaged both international observers and the family

MINSK 00001162 002 OF 002


members of the accused. Within an hour, international media,
including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio Ratsia,
accurately reported Ambassador's interview via internet.

Comment


--------------------------





7. (SBU) The GOB most likely suspendeD criminal cases
against the organization's other leaders to minimizeQ
comparisons with the politically motivated criminal trials ofQ
former opposition preridential candadate Alekrandr KozUlinQ
and the four "Partnership" leaders in July and August.
However, the regime just as likely could not resist pressing
forward with its prosecution /f Dashkevich bdcause the regime
considers him to be a more serious threat, as a symbol not
/nly of Malady Front but also of the Belarusian youth
opposition movement writ large. The coordinated U.S.-EU
visit sent a clear signal to the GOB that the international
community is 7atching Dashkevich's trial no less closely than
the KozElin and Partnership trials. End comm%nt.
Stewart