KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 18 December 2000

BELARUS: COURT REAFFIRMS DEPORTATION DECISION AGAINST
POLISH PRIEST. In the latest twist in the case of the Polish Catholic priest
Zbigniew Karolak, the presidium of the Brest regional court has overturned the
revocation of his deportation. Previously the same court had ruled in favour of the
priest in what his lawyer described at the time as a �sensational� decision.

BELARUS: COURT REAFFIRMS DEPORTATION DECISION AGAINST
POLISH PRIEST
by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

In the latest twist in the long-running case of the Polish Catholic priest Zbigniew
Karolak, the presidium of the Brest regional court convened on 29 November and
overturned the revocation of his deportation. On 13 November the same court had
ruled in favour of the priest in what his lawyer Igor Kabalik described at the time
as a �sensational� decision (see KNS 14 November 2000). Now the court has
returned to the ruling of the district court last October that the deportation order
issued against the priest last May had been legal, a decision which had been
criticised by the procurator. �In the West, when a court rules the decision is fixed,�
Kabalik told Keston News Service from Brest on 14 December. �Here a court can
take a decision one day on the basis of materials before it and on the next day can
take the opposite decision based on the same materials.�

Kabalik complained that the latest hearing took place in secrecy and he, the
priest�s lawyer, had not even been informed, only learning of the hearing on 2
December. �Everything took place in accordance with the law,� insisted Nikolai
Shiz, a member of the regional court presidium who took part in the hearing.
�Lawyers and other persons are allowed to attend initial hearings and appeal
hearings, but are not allowed to attend review hearings,� he told Keston on 15
December.

Kabalik also complained that the protest against the 13 November ruling had been
lodged by Konstantin Timofeevich, the chairman of the regional court, who had
also presided over the 29 November hearing and had signed the judgment issued
by that hearing. �Timofeevich approved the October decision of the district court
which the local procurator had himself criticised,� Kabalik noted. Keston tried to
contact Timofeevich at the regional court on 15 December to ask whether his triple
role in the case had not caused a conflict of interest, but was told that he was ill.
Shiz denied to Keston that this represented a conflict of interest, stressing again
that �everything was done in accordance with the law� and insisting that the
presidium took its decision �objectively�.

Kabalik told Keston that the last remaining avenue for Father Karolak to challenge
the latest ruling is to take the case to the country�s Supreme Court in Minsk, a
decision which he said lies with the head of the Catholic Church in Belarus,
Cardinal Kazimierz Swiatek.

Invited by the Pinsk Catholic diocese, Father Karolak served as parish priest of the
Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the western Belarusian town of Brest
for nine years, but was forced to leave the country in May, ahead of the
deportation order issued by the police in Leninsky district of Brest, after
encountering increasing opposition from the Brest office of the government�s
Committee for Religious Affairs (CRA) and the prosecutor's office. The CRA
hadrefused to extend his registration as a priest at the beginning of the year.

�As a citizen of Belarus, I look with sorrow on the fact that a priest was expelled
from my country for no reason,� Kabalik noted. �He did nothing.� (END)


Copyright (c) 2000 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.