Belarus: opposition activist expelled from university and recruited to the military

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Military recruitment is not always used for entirely military purposes. Frequently, authorities use military recruitment as a tool to silence opposition activists, as recently happened in Belarus.

Dzmitry Zhaleznichenka, a member of the Belarusian Popular Front, was expelled from the university on January 22, thus becoming eligible for active military service. He was called up for military service when he still was a student and he was shown the expulsion order by the university's representative only at the military recruitment office.

On 22 January, Mr. Zhaleznichenka was expelled from the university for the second time, again for alleged violations of the university’s internal rules.

A few days earlier, a district court in Homyel overturned the first expulsion order and ruled that Mr. Zhaleznichenka should be reinstated as third-year student at the university’s mathematics department, where he had studied before September 2007.

The rector signed the second order after the board of the students' union voted seven to five in favor of expulsion. At the meeting, Valery Nedastup, head of the university’s legal department, said that the first order had been overturned because of merely technical errors, and recalled that the youth had served a jail sentence on a charge of disorderly conduct following his first expulsion.

The young man won a months-long court battle against his first expulsion on 16 January, but was kicked out again six days later.

At a preliminary hearing on 8 February, Ms. Zhaleznichenka’s lawyer, Pyotr Barysaw, said that the young man was not physically fit for military service and was eligible for six months’ deferment for health reasons. Mr. Barysaw said that the family had already complained about the second expulsion to Homyel’s Tsentralny District Court.

At the hearing Judge Yury Zhoraw announced a court order suspending the activist’s military service that was issued on 1 February. Mr. Barysaw requested the judge to require the command of the military unit where Mr. Zhaleznichenka is serving to obey the court order.

The first hearing in the case is scheduled for February 14.

Mr. Zhaleznichenka refused food for five days in late January to protest his drafting but dropped the hunger strike over health complications.

On 9 February, Dzmitry Zhaleznichenka refused to take the military oath. “I was called up for military service illegally and we will be able to prove this in court as soon as we have an opportunity.

I did not take the oath so that they won’t be able to accuse me of losing some gun and prosecute me. I don’t refuse to serve my people, but I will do this legally, when, for instance, I’m drafted upon graduation from the university,” Mr. Zhaleznichenka said.

Sources: BelaPAN, 28 January 2008, BelaPAN, 8 February 2008, BelaPAN, 9 February 2008

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