You are here

Trial over Frenchman Jolan Viaud begins in Belarus

On Wednesday, a trial began over a 24-year-old French citizen, Jolan Viaud, began in Belarus. Jolan is accused of "illegal actions regarding the use of firearms and ammunition and moving them across the border."

MORE: Frenchman detained at Belarus' border with bullet in his backpack

Half an hour before the start of the trial, in a small courtroom of the Gomel district was full of people: representatives of the French embassy, ​​the press - including from France, local activists and human rights activists. Jolan's brother was also there near the courthouse and it was easy to confuse him with the accused, because of their beard.

Jolan was forced to shave his beard in jail and now he looks much younger. Through an interpreter the Frenchman told about himself: he grew up with his mother and two brothers, his father left the family when Jolan was little. And when the guy turned 18 years old, his father died, and "there was a need to change the situation."

Jolan went to London, where he lived for six years. In the British capital, the Frenchman worked as an assistant manager in a shoe store, acted in film, and then began to travel. After visiting nine countries, he came to Belarus to see the country and visit his friend Tatyana. By the way, she also came to court.

- When I was in Warsaw, a friend Pawiel, in whose flat I spent the night, gave me a souvenir. He took the cartridge from the vase on the bookshelves in the hallway when he saw me off in the morning. At the exit from the apartment, he handed it to me with the words: "This is for you for memory." Pawiel said it was a dummy cartridge.

From Poland, Jolan went to Lithuania, and from there safely entered Belarus. And leaving the country to Ukraine, I remembered about the cartridge in the pocket of the backpack:

- I went through the "red corridor", because there was a queue, and so I intuitively went to where people were. I asked the customs officer about the cartridge. He did not understand very much because of the lack of English knowledge. I asked whether the cartridge was forbidden? The customs officer asked me to show what exactly I mean. I myself do not understand anything about cartridges, because I did not serve in the army, I saw cartridges only in the movies.

The same customs officer also gave evidence in court. He acknowledged that his level of English ​​was "shameful":

- It was my initiative to speak with him in English, to use the moment and improve the language. After the question about prohibited subjects, the Frenchman shook his head saying "no". I used body language to ask him to get things for inspection. I used gestures, because I still do not know such words. At first the foreigner took out a small cartridge. We, perhaps, would not notice it, he himself showed us the cartridge.

There are several indicators of risk and the beard is one of them. In my experience a person usually shows something forbidden only at the last moment, when they see there is no chance to hide it. But in this case Jolan volunteered to show us the bullet.

My personal opinion is that he had no intention of doing anything wrong. That's what happened because of my lack of English.

Jolan's lawyer asked the court to change the preventive measure for the defendant and release him under the surety of two Minsk girls who know Jolan. However, the court said the crimes Vioud is accused of are considered too serious to release him on these conditions.

Jolan's brother Guillaume said after the first day that he was satisfied how things went during the first half of the day, but after he heard the decision, he did not understand it clearly and will demand explanations from the lawyer. Guillaume noted that his brother looks fine but has lost weight after being in prison for weeks. "Jolan's mother cries all the time knowing that her son is in prison. And this is hell for us," Guillaume said.

Jolan's lawyer said that the article of the Criminal Code in question reads that a person may face from 3 to 7 years of prison.

However, he noted that the court still can use other articles to mitigate the punishment, up to arrest or even just a fine.

"We will see how the court will judge, but our position is that he did not intend to do any crime," the lawyer underlined.

The court has decided to continue the trial on November 17. The prosecutor asked additional witnesses from the customs service to be invited. Representatives of the French embassy in Belarus are watching the proceedings and see to it that Jolan has the required conditions and is treated better than it was initially. They are not giving any comments, however.

"I hope this story will soon end and we will see Jolan soon," added Guillaume.

Brother and the interpreter will leave Minsk tomorrow on November 16. They say they did not expect that the trial would last more than one day.

Photo: kp.by

Trial over Frenchman Jolan Viaud begins in Belarus