The final (non) statement of expert Tatiana Kouzina in court
This speech by Tatiana Kouzina, which she gave in place of a final statement during an open court hearing, took place on 13th March 2023 in the Minsk municipal court. Experts Tatiana Kouzina and Valeria Kostyugova are accused under three Articles of the Belarusian Criminal Code and are recognised as political prisoners. During the trial, the prosecutor requested 10-year prison sentences for them.
"I thought for quite a long time about the content and relevance of this final statement and about whether in principle it was worth me using this right to give some final words, and about what exactly I wanted to say with them. I have had more than a year and a half to reflect on this and try to find some kind of answer to the questions of whether political struggle and political competition must be regarded as a conspiracy, and whether the different sides and participants in this political struggle have to interpret the actions of their opponents as a conspiracy aimed at seizing power. Is it really necessary to treat alternative viewpoints on, for example, how the country should develop, as ideological enmity?
Or is it worth me explaining my expert position on sanctions which has not changed for more than 10 years and is not a secret in the expert community? What this consists of is that sanctions are not an effective instrument because sanctions against individuals consolidate the group which they are being used against and sector-wide sanctions cause harm and have a negative impact on the standard of living for people living in the country, and also increase the dependence of our economy on a single source. These arguments have been expressed many times, they are no secret, they are not my personal intellectual property, and they need no further explanation within the expert community.
Is it worth me talking about the text presented to us by "an expert" – the text which the charges were based on, as it is worth talking about it in terms of research ethics. We learn a lot from this text about the inner world of the person calling himself ‘Simonov,’ but we learn very little about the questions posed [by the court]. And we cannot see at all that this person has used some kind of reliable methodology or that he is in fact a recognised specialist in the field. Furthermore, there are questions about the existence of such a methodology and the validity of using such a method.
It seems at this moment that I am probably the most overestimated representative of the expert community in Belarus because for 340 words – ‘meaningful words’ discovered in a chat according to the charges – they are asking for 120 months of jail time. That means that for every word they are in principle asking for 2.5 months of my life. And therefore I will not make my final statement."