It should be recalled, that on 5 November last year Tonkacheva was ordered to leave Belarus within a month and not to visit the country for the next three years. The grounds for this decision was the fact of a minor over-speeding by the Tonkacheva’s car, registered by the video cameras.
Human rights defender appealed this decision. The appeal process ensures the suspension of deportation orders for three months – one month for the appeal to each of the specified instances. On 12 December, human rights defender’s complaint was turned down in the court of first instance.
Elena Tonkacheva, who is a citizen of Russian Federation, lives in Belarus for about 30 years. For 20 years Tonkacheva and the Center for Legal Transformation, which she heads, provide professional legal and expert support to non-profit organizations in Belarus, as well as help in situations of human rights violations.
During the preliminary hearing on 12 January, Tonkacheva asked the court to overturn the decision on the deportation from the country as groundless. According to the human rights defender, the Department of the internal affairs based the decision on the fact that she had previously “drove the vehicle of heightened danger, violating the traffic regulations, what could cause the bodily injuries of the citizens or lead to their death.” “But in my life I have never done anything, that would have caused harm to the health of citizens. Therefore, the rationale of the Department of the internal affairs is based on an imaginary threat that can not be considered reliable, “- said Tonkacheva.
In addition, Tonkacheva noted that the police does not have any reliable evidence that it was she who drove a car, when the cameras recorded speeding.
The human rights defender also requested to consider that her “relationship with the Republic of Belarus is a long-term and sustainable” – she has a permanent job and property here, and her daughter is a citizen of Belarus. In any other countries Tonkacheva has no job, no assets or property.
Elene Tonkacheva was absent at the time when the verdict was announced. She said that she was very anxious, feeling a great psychological tension, and might not be able to hold her emotions. Later she expressed her point of view on the decision:
“For my part, I think that I did my best while preparing to the trial and participating in it. We presented enough evidence, both documentary and in the form of testimonies of witnesses. I thing it was to have influenced the court decision at least what concerns a review of the term of expulsion. However, the court didn’t go that way. According to the law, the court has the right to its own evaluation and opinion, that’s how I treat it now. I intend to challenge this verdict.”
Elena Tonkacheva also pointed that if she and her lawyer had succeeded in defending their position at this trial, the Belarusian authorities would have had to review most of the previously made decisions on the expulsion of other persons. Thus, it would have created a precedent, putting the police bodies in a difficult situation.
Elena said that in three years she could be seen in Belarus again. She is going to accumulate forces, ideas and plans and will return to Belarus to speak about law and democracy.
Social activists collected 7,000 signatures on the petition not to expel Tonkacheva from the country. Civil society representatives believe that the actions of the authorities are disproportionate and represent politically motivated sanctions, closely related to the professional activities of the human rights defender.