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Belarusian trade union leader freed

4 October, 2017Ihar Komlik was released on 2 October 2017 after making a written undertaking not to leave the country. A trade union leader and chief accountant of the Belarusian Radio and Electronics Industry Workers’ Union (REP), an affiliate of IndustriALL, Komlik has been in custody for two months since 2 August. The criminal investigation against him and Gennady Fedynich continues.

Both Komlik and Fedynich - the latter REP chairman and a member of the IndustriALL Executive Committee - were detained for alleged large-tax evasion taken place in 2011. In August Fedynich was released after interrogation, while Komlik was sent to a pre-trial detention centre and later moved to a prison in Minsk.

Reportedly, Komlik was imprisoned because he used his constitutional right and refused to testify against himself. Upon his release Komlik explained why he had to recur to his right:

“I was guided by the following rationale. As soon as I got to the investigation office, I immediately understood by some remarks that the case was not directed against me personally, but against the union. Usually an investigator works like this, once he finds a violation, he demands to pay taxes in one or another amount; and the investigator does not care where you would get this money from. As for me, I was immediately told: “Oh, not a big deal that taxes are not paid, you have an office! Just sell the office and pay.” But we all know: selling our office would mean that our organization would fall under the law on legal address (Editorial clarification, in Belarus organizations without legal addresses cannot work). The trade union REP would be closed immediately. And from these remarks I understood straight away where the wind was blowing from. I think that the officials understood that they were dealing with a political case.”

Earlier IndustriALL jointly with International Trade Union Confederation addressed to Belarusian authorities demanding drop of all accusations against Fedynich and Komlik.

So far, the investigation continues, both leaders are now considered as witnesses of the case, but if found guilty they may face up to seven years in prison and confiscation of their private property.

Kemal Ozkan, IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary,

We certainly welcome the release of our brother from the prison in Belarus. However, our initial demands remain unchanged, we still want all these false accusations aimed at undermining our affiliate in Belarus be dropped. We won’t tolerate that trade union leaders in Belarus are treated like criminals. This is not in line with the Constitution of Belarus, nor with its international obligations.”