Beejin Khastumur: Environmental defender’s trial saga continues

On the 10th August, the Yes to Life, No to Mining Network received news that the trial of beejin_khastumurenvironmental and human rights defender Beejin Khasutumur has been postponed for a third time.

This is the latest episode in a process that has been repeatedly delayed since Beejin was initially called to defend himself in the Criminal court of Bayangol, Khan-Uul and Songinokhairkhan Districts on the 8th July 2016.

Beejin’s trial is now expected to take place on the 22nd of August 2016.

 

Arrest, Detention and Release

Following an altercation with another driver after a minor road traffic accident on the 6th February, Beejin was officially charged under Article 181.3 of the Criminal Code of Mongolia with “a crime committed using a weapon or by a violent criminal” on 10 March 2016.

This charge was handed down despite there being no evidence proving Beejin’s guilt. Following the charge, Beejin was detained in the Gants Khudag detention centre from 16-31st March before being released on medical grounds an kept under house arrest.

If convicted, he faces up to five years of imprisonment.

Find out more about the events leading up to Beejin’s arrest.

Given the suspicious circumstances surrounding the crime of which Beejin is accused, YLNM and many other organisations believe that his arrest, subsequent detention and upcoming trial may be an attempt to shut down Beejin’s legitimate and peaceful activities in the defence of environmental rights and rights of nomad people in Mongolia. 

(DMNN members protect illegal mining operations in Ulan Bator, December 2015. Photo: DMNN)

(DMNN members protect illegal mining operations in Ulan Bator, December 2015. Photo: DMNN)

As the founder of YLNM member group Delhiin Mongol Nogoon Negdel Mongolia (DMNN), Beejin is a champion of environmental protection and human rights in Mongolia. He has done extensive work to uphold Mongolia’s own environmental laws and expose illegal mining operations in the country.

On 21-23 December 2015, Beejin Khastamur organised a sit-in protest against an allegedly illegal permit given to a joint Canadian and Mongolian company enabling it to mine gold on Onon River. Since then he has faced constant acts of intimidation and harassment. On several occasions people have banged on his door at night, cut his electricity, slashed his car tires and threatened his wife and children. He has also received death threats by phone.

(DMNN members are carried away from the government building. Photo: DMNN)

(DMNN members are carried away from the government building. Photo: DMNN)

Upon his release from Gants Khudag, pending trial, Mongolian authorities forced Beejin to sign a statement acknowledging that he will be jailed if he ever organises or participates in any type of demonstration or public gathering.

Read more about the intimidation Beejin and DMNN have faced.

Beejin on Trial

Beejin was originally due to stand trial on 8th July 2016. However, this trial was delayed, with the reason unclear to international observers, and reorganised for the 21st July.

On the 21st July, Beejin’s trial was rescheduled once again as the plaintiff- the individual who claims to have been attacked by Beejin- and his attorney failed to turn up at the court. Both individuals sent hand written notes to the court stating that they were both in hospital. The judge did not request to see any official notes from the hospitals or doctors attending the two individuals before rescheduling the trial.

The judge’s lenient attitude towards the plaintiff and his legal team despite their failure to be present in court prompted one attendee, who prefers to remain unnamed, to comment:

“It was clear from the get go that someone powerful wanted to get rid of Beejin and they influenced the judge and prosecutor. Their attitude proves it because they are just being overly patient with this guy. If it was the other way around, Beejin would have been put in jail already for disrespecting the court by requesting a continuance based on his hand written note not an official verification.”

Thanks to awareness raising work from NGOs working in solidarity with DMNN, a number of international observers, including representatives from the French embassy in Mongolia, attended the trial on the 21st. Their presence reprotedly angered the prosecutor, who allegedly complained to the judge that the trial was being turned into ‘a show or movie’.

The third postponement of Beejin’s trial came earlier this week on 10th August. On this occasion the trial was unable to commence as Beejin’s attorney was unable to attend because of a family emergency.

Beejin’s supporters believe that, on this occasion, the suspension of Beejin’s trial benefited him greatly, despite further elongating his struggle to clear his name.

After the trial was postponed, a source close to Beejin commented:

“We believe the prosecutor was set to put Beejin away after today’s trial. She had so many cops and vans wait outside of the courtroom. As soon as we existed the courthouse, the cops surrounded us. The prosecutor, not the judge, said she will not allow another continuance.”

With this ultimatum served by the prosecutor, it seems likely Beejin’s trial will finally go ahead on 22nd August 2016.

Worried by what they have seen in the courtroom so far, contacts close to Beejin say it’s extremely important for representatives of international organisations to attend the next trial and to exert pressure on the court.

International pressure has already helped support Beejin. After Beejin’s initial trial was postponed, a member of the court reportedly told Beejin himself that they had been overwhelmed with the number of international letters received in support of Beejin.


TAKE ACTION
  • Contact your country’s embassy in Mongolia, send them details of Beejin’s case and ask them to send a representative to Beejin’s trial at the Criminal court of Bayangol, Khan-Uul and Songinokhairkhan Districts on 22nd August 2016.

 

 

  • Email the judge and court presiding over Beejin’s trial and tell them to ensure Beejin’s right to a fair trial:

Name: Hon. Tsogtzandan Yondon, Chief judge of the Criminal court of Bayangol, Khan-Uul and Songinokhairkhan Districts

Email: d_bkhs_tg@shuukh.mn

Draft English and Mongolian email text containing messaging approved by DMNN:

(English)

Hon. Tsogtzandan Yondon, Chief judge of the Criminal court of Bayangol, Khan-Uul and Songinokhairkhan Districts,

We are writing to you to express our concern over the upcoming trial of Mr Beejin Khastumur on Thursday 21st July 2016.

As environmental and human rights advocates we recognise Mr Khastumur’s positive work as founder of Delhiin Mongol Nogoon Negdel (DMNN), a non-governmental organisation which advocates for the protection of the environment and the rights of the nomad people of Mongolia. In particular, we support Mr Khastumur’s work to uphold Mongolia’s own environmental laws and expose illegal mining operations in the country, as a result of which he has suffered intimidation and even physical violence. 

Considering the suspicious circumstances surrounding Mr Khastumur’s arrest in March this year, we believe that Mr Khastumur’s arrest, subsequent detention and upcoming trial may be linked to his legitimate and peaceful activities in the defence of environmental rights and rights of nomad people in Mongolia. 

We have previously called for the Mongolian authorities to drop all charges against Mr Khastumur, but, understanding that Mr Khastumur will stand trial, we urge you to ensure that Mr Khastumur enjoys his right to a fair trial this Friday. 

We hope the court is able to uncover the truth behind the highly contested incident that led to Mr Khastumur’s arrest. 

We will observe and await the outcome of the trial with great interest. 

Yours sincerely, 

[Name, Organisation]

(Mongolian)

Баянгол, Хан-Уул, Сонгинохайрхан Дүүргийн Эрүүгийн Анхан Шатны Шүүхийн Ерөнхий Шүүгч Эрхэмсэг Ноён Ёндонгийн Цогтзандан Танаа:

Бид 2016 оны 7 сарын 21-ний Пүрэв гаригт товлогдсон ноён Хастөмөрийн Бээжинд холбогдох хэргийн талаарх шүүх хурлын ажиллагаанд сэтгэл зовнин энэхүү захидлыг бичиж байна.

Байгаль орчин, хүний эрхийн төлөө тэмцэгчдийн хувьд бид Дэлхийн Монгол Ногоон Нэгдэл /ДМНН/ ТББ-ын Тэргүүн ноён Хастөмөрийн Бээжингийн байгаль орчин болон Монголын хүн ардын төлөө хийсэн үр бүтээлтэй ажлуудын талаар сайн мэднэ.

Нэн ялангуяа, Монгол улсын байгаль орчны хуулиудыг сахиулах, хууль бусаар үйл ажиллагаа явуулж буй уул уурхайнуудыг хяналттай болгох талаар хийсэн ажлуудыг нь бид маш их дэмждэг, гэхдээ ноён Хастөмөрийн Бээжин энэнийхээ төлөө янз бүрээр дарамтлуулж цаашлаад халдлагад өртөж байна.

2016 оны 3 сард ноён Бээжинг сэжигтэй нөхцөл байдалд баривчилсанаас харахад түүний баривчилгаа, 18 хоног хорьсон байдал, одоо болох гэж буй шүүх хурал зэрэг нь түүний байгаль орчин, хүн ардынхаа төлөө хууль ёсоор, тайван замаар тэмцдэгтэй нь холбоотой байх хэмээн бид бодож байгаа билээ.

Бид Монгол улсын төр засгийн удирдлагуудад ноён Бээжинд холбогдуулсан хэргийг хүчингүй болгохыг уриалж байсан. Өнөөдөр ноён Бээжин шүүх хуралд дуудагдаж байна. Энэхүү 21-нд болох хурал нь харин шударгаар явагдана гэдэгт бид итгэл төгс байна.

Мөн бид танай шүүх ноён Бээжинг баривчлах, ийм байдалд хүргэх болсон шалтгаан, үнэн мөнийг илчлэн гаргаж ирнэ хэмээн найдаж байна.

Бид энэхүү хурлын явцыг анхааралтайгаар ажиглан, гарах үр дагаврыг шимтэнгүй хүлээх болно.

Таныг Гүнээ Хүндэтгэсэн,

[Name, Organisation]

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