SYMPA/BIPART statement on criminal charges against Tatiana Kouzina
On 14 July 2021, charges against Tatiana Kouzina, a SYMPA/BIPART expert, were made public. In its court sitting schedule for the day, the Minsk City Court referenced the following articles of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus: Part 1 of Art. 357, Part 3 of Art. 361 and Part 6 of Art. 16.
Part 1 of Art. 357: "Conspiracy or other actions aimed at seizing state power", punishable by imprisonment for a period from eight to 12 years;
Part 3 of Art. 361: "Calls for actions aimed at damaging the national security of the Republic of Belarus", punishable by imprisonment for a period from two to five years.
Moreover, the Court also makes reference to Part 6 of Art. 16, which likely means "assistance" in committing crimes under the aforementioned articles of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus.
The SYMPA/BIPART team once again repeats that the expert work, teaching or any other professional activities, in which Tatiana Kouzina has been engaged have nothing to do with any of these articles of the Criminal Code, or any "partnership" in committing crimes described in them.
On behalf of SYMPA/BIPART we reiterate that, like many other representatives of the expert and research community, we regard the persecution of our colleague Tatiana Kouzina, another expert Valeria Kostyugova and other Belarusian researchers and analysts as politically motivated and related solely to their professional responsibilities and expression of opinions on the current situation in the country. Once again, we demand an end to the persecution of people whose work is in no way related to any criminal or other offenses.
Recognized and respected researchers from all over the world have joined the Belarusian expert community in protesting against the unlawful actions committed by the Belarusian authorities. Among them, the faculty, staff and alumni of Stanford's Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law led by world-known political analyst Francis Fukuyama, expressed their protest against the unjustified arrest and persecution of Ms Kouzina.
14 July 2021 has been marked by a new wave of searches in the homes of activists, human rights defenders and journalists; some of them have been detained. Law enforcement officers were seen in the offices of many organizations, among them Human Rights Centre Viasna, Human Constanta, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Movement For Freedom, charitable project Names, Third Sector, Lev Sapieha Foundation, the Belarusian Association of Journalists, the Union of Belarusian Writers, BEROC and other. Among those under attack today are our partners and colleagues, who have not committed any crimes either and have only been working for the good of the Belarusian people and the civil society development. We resolutely condemn today's events and the authorities' unjustifiably harsh actions that have all the signs of political persecution.
Tatiana Kouzina was detained at the passport control of the Minsk National Airport on 28 June 2021. Next day, another colleague, editor of the Our Opinion (Наше мнение) website and the Belarusian Yearbook, Valeria Kostyugova. Both experts are long-time members of the Belarusian expert and research community and have made vital contributions to its formation and development. Tatiana Kouzina is one of the leading independent experts in the field of public policy and public administration. Valeria Kostyugova is one of the leading experts in the field of Belarus-Russia relations and the Belarusian political system at large.