(June 29, 2001) Professor Yuri Bandashevsky was sentenced to 8 years' hard labor by a military tribunal in Belarus on 18 June. Although bribery was the official charge, the real reason behind his sentence is related to his 9 years of research into the effects of the Chernobyl disaster. The sentence was followed two days later by an almost-fatal attack on the acting director of the Institute "Belrad", which carries out related work
(551.5289) WISE Amsterdam - The news of Bandashevsky's sentence has come as a shock to other people involved in the campaign to help Chernobyl victims. Charges against him were made in 1999, when he was imprisoned from 13 July to 27 December (see WISE News Communique nos. 522.5120, "Belarus: Chernobyl medical expert in jail" and 523.5129, "Chernobyl medical expert out of jail, but charges not dropped"). After a campaign to free him, he was then released on probation and had to stay in Minsk until his trial.
He was charged with accepting bribes from parents for their children to be admitted as students to the medical institute. However, the witnesses subsequently retracted their statements against him, and the prosecutor in the case, Bozhelko, told a press conference on 17 February 2001 that the case was empty. Bozhelko was then taken off the case, and has since disappeared. His whereabouts are still unknown, and it is not known if he is still alive.
The case was then transferred to the Supreme Court, who transferred it to the Military Tribunal in Gomel because Bandashevsky's co-defendant, Vladimir Ravkov, was previously a lieutenant colonel in the army. It was this tribunal that sentenced both Bandashevsky and Ravkov on 18 June.
Harry Pahaniaila, vice-chairman of the Helsinki Committee of Belarus, said, "According to our legislation, one can't submit a cassation complaint against this verdict. But I have no doubt that Bandashevsky and his defense will complain against the verdict. In this case there were many violations. For instance, Bandashevsky's right to defense was violated."
Belarus, which itself has no nuclear power plants, received a large proportion of the Chernobyl fallout, and dealing with the after-effects of the disaster consumes a quarter of the national budget (See WISE News Communique 547.5262, "Chernobyl 15 years on: health information still suppressed"). After the Chernobyl disaster Bandashevsky moved from Grodno, where he had been director of the central research laboratory, to Gomel, where he established the Gomel Medical Institute to help people in the contaminated region.
As rector of this institute, Bandashevsky carried out research into the effects of radioisotopes on vital organs of the human body following the Chernobyl disaster. Rats fed with cesium-137 were found to have pathological modifications to the kidneys, liver, heart and lungs. Bandashevsky and his colleagues then carried out 285 autopsies in the Gomel morgue, and found similar pathological modifications to those observed in the rats.
Since the military tribunal's decision cannot be reversed by appeal, the best hope for Bandashevsky is to press the President of Belarus to grant a pardon. To this end, please send a letter to the President, requesting that he pardon Bandashevsky. A model text appears below. The President's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. By post or fax, it is probably best to send to the Embassy of Belarus in your country: see the website www.ac.by/country/embass.html for details.
Please also send a copy to the coordinator of the action, Solange Fernex at email@example.com
Please send your protest before 3 July (see letter)!!
Mr. Alexander Lukachenko
Re: Request for Presidential Pardon for Professor Yuri I. Bandashevsky
Dear Mr. President,
On the 3rd of July, your country is celebrating the tenth anniversary of its independence.
On this occasion, and to mark this important commemoration, we request that you use your powers to grant a Presidential pardon to Professor Yuri I. Bandashevsky, who was sentenced on 18th June to 8 years at a labor camp, even though he has always denied the charges made against him, and the witnesses have all retracted their statements against him.
A Presidential pardon for Professor Bandashevsky would be welcomed unanimously by people all over the world who desire to help the victims of the Chernobyl disaster, including those in your country, and reduce their suffering. Professor Bandashevsky's research and other work was always motivated by this fundamental priority.
We look forward to your response,
He thus discovered a direct relationship between a number of diseases and the concentration ofradioisotopes in the body - something that is clearly embarrassing both for the Belarus government and the international nuclear lobby. Having found this link, he then identified compounds that are effective in eliminating radioisotopes from the body without side effects, which could be given to people living in contaminated areas. The Belarus Ministry of Public Health, however, ignored his findings.
Before his arrest in 1999, Bandashevsky criticized the Minsk Clinical Research Institute of Radiation Medicine for mismanagement of funds allocated for research into overcoming the consequences of Chernobyl. This clearly made him unpopular with the authorities.
Bandashevsky is very sick, with heart and gastric problems, making it all the more vital to press for him to be pardoned. A draft letter to send to the President, either directly or via the local embassy of Belarus, is included with this article. Amnesty International are also expected to make an appeal.
A "Passport for Freedom" from the European Parliament will be presented on 3 or 4 July at Strasbourg to Bandazhevsky's wife, pediatrician Dr. Galina Bandazhevskaya. This has been signed by many European politicians including two former Presidents of the European Commission (Jacques Santer and Gil Roblès) and former European Commissioner Emma Bonino.
Two days after Bandashevsky was sentenced, Dr Alexander Devoino, deputy director of the independent radiation research institute Belrad, was attacked in front of the door of his home. He had been attacked with brass knuckles, and was left lying in a pool of his own blood. Doctors said it was the work of a "professional". It is thought that the attack was intended as a severe warning for Professor Nesterenko, director of Belrad (see box "Belarus Repression Continues" in WISE News Communique 547.5262, "Chernobyl 15 years on: health information still suppressed").
Belrad has performed 300,000 measurements of caesium-137 in foodstuffs and carried out measurements of radioactivity on 120,000 children. The data found were 8-10 times higher than the calculations performed by the Belarus Ministry of Health on the basis of individual samples collected in a few villages.
Concern over human rights abuses in Belarus continues in the run-up to the presidential elections set for 9 September this year. A US State Department report on human rights practices in 2000 stated, "The Government's human rights record was very poor and worsened significantly in many areas". Current developments appear to indicate that this trend is continuing.
- emails from Solange Fernex, 18 and 22 June 2001
- Web site www.chernobyl.da.ru
- "Qui est le professeur Bandazhevsky?", text by Wladimir Tchertkoff, December 2000
- Web site www.spring96.org, 19 June 2001
Contact: Solange Fernex, President, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (French section), 114, rue du Vaugirard, 75005 Paris, France
Tel: +33-389-407183; Fax: +33-389-407804