Belarusian journalists demand an end to impunity on Zavadski case
July 10, Moscow: It’s been 15 years since Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) member Dimitry Zavadski vanished from Minsk Airport under very eerie conditions. And, as the case inches closer to legal closure, BAJ has called on civil society to help keep the investigation open.
Zavadski, after three years of his disappearance, was officially declared dead by the state under mysterious circumstances. On the 15th anniversary of his disappearance the BAJ called on representatives of civil society to keep an eye on his case. “We urge civil society to keep an eye on Dmitry Zavadski’s case until the authorities reveal the whole truth about the crime and until the names of the perpetrators are revealed, ” BAJ said through a statement.
Disappearance of Zavadski:
On July 7, 2000, Zavadsky had gone to the Minsk National Airport to meet his friend and colleague Sheremet, who had just flown in from Moscow. And according to reports, witnesses stated that they had seen Zavadsky in the airport after which he disappeared. While talking about the last few days before his disappearance, his wife claims that he had been receiving threat calls from an unknown number.
Though nothing concrete has appeared for the last decade and more, Committee to Protect Journalists and its sources in Belarus, suspect that Zavadsky was murdered because he had footage of Belarusian security agents fighting in Chechnya alongside Chechen rebels.
Belarusian officials have suggested that Zavadsky was kidnapped either by his colleagues at ORT, Sheremet, or by members of the local opposition and it was most probably related to his “pro-Russia” coverage of the Chechen war. According to reports, on November 20, a Belarusian media received an anonymous email from a person calling himself as an officer of the Belarus State Security who was investigating Zavadsky’s case:
The anonymous letter claimed that nine suspects had been arrested — “seven of whom were either current or former officers of the Presidential Security Service, the suspects had confessed to killing Zavadsky and had named the place where his body was buried. According to the e-mail, the investigators had also found a shovel stained with Zavadsky’s blood. Additionally, the e-mail claimed that President Lukashenko refused to allow investigators to exhume the body, and that the case was later transferred from the Prosecutor’s Office to the Interior Ministry to sabotage the investigation ” — a report from Committee to Protect Journalists said.
In 2002, four men were convicted for his abduction. Two officers of a special forces squad were sentenced to life imprisonment and two other citizens were sentenced to 25 years in prison. However, there is still a strong belief that the case has not yet been solved and there are still pieces of the puzzle missing.
The lawyer handling Zavadsky, Harry Pahaniyayla, chair of the legal commission of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and a friend of the family says that investigations should keep going. “Formally, it should continue until we find out what became of the journalist,” he said. In his view, relatives and lawyers are already familiar with the case materials, as they were presented at the court hearings.
As the case drifts towards closure as per Belarusian laws, Zavadsky mother – Volha Ryhorauna Zavadskaya – isn’t too certain about the success of the investigation as she believes nothing has been investigated.
The Oslo Times