Swiss trial against former member of Belarus death squad begins

St Gallen, Switzerland, Sept 19, (dpa/GNA) – A trial started in Switzerland on Tuesday, against a former member of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s rapid intervention unit, who is accused of having participated in the enforced disappearance of opposition politicians in his home country.

It marks the first time an independent court in Switzerland will try possible crimes, committed on behalf of the state in Belarus.

Yuri Garavski, who according to his own statements was a member of a special unit of the Belarusian Ministry of the Interior that murdered three opposition members in 1999, appeared before the Rorschach District Court, in the north-eastern Swiss region of Lake Constance, on Tuesday morning.

Because of the high level of public interest, the trial took place in the larger rooms of the cantonal court in St Gallen.

Human rights activists say the trial, marks a historic moment because the court is attempting to clarify whether Garavski, acted “on behalf of or with the approval of a state or political organization.”

It is the first time that alleged death squads in Belarus have been tried by an independent court.

Garavski fled to Switzerland, where he is now on trial. The prosecution has requested a three-year prison sentence, two of them suspended.