News for 24 Feb 2009
24.02.2009 Famous Belarusian musician Uladzimir Puhach: ‘To execute a human being for committing a crime is the silliest thing on Earth’
Uladzimir Puhach, frontman of J:MORC rock band, has joined the public campaign for the abolition of death penalty in Belarus, saying that ‘it is not the gravity of the punishment but its inevitability that keeps a person from committing a crime.’ ‘Mankind has passed through many stages of development. Many things have been invented and many things have been forgotten. This is how the progress comes into being. People used to eat one another – then they gave it up. People used to kill one another and, unfortunately, continue to do so. But I believe that one day people will stop killing each other. And what could be my biggest dream is that one day people will stop killing each other by law.
24.02.2009 Anti-nuclear power plant newspaper launched in Hrodna region
According to Mikola Ulasevich, leader of the public campaign ‘Astravets nuclear power plant is a crime’, there has appeared the first issue of the Astravetski vesnik newspaper. The newspaper is not registered and will be issued in 299 copies, which is not forbidden by the law. The first issue covers the possible construction of a nuclear power plant outside the town of Astravets, Hrodna region. The activists claim that a nuclear power plant should not be constructed in the earthquake-prone area of Belarus. Besides they stress that the construction of a nuclear power plant in the post-Chernobyl Belarus is a crime, which will eventually result in another irreparable global disaster.
24.02.2009 Journalists fined in Homel
On 24 February Judge Maryna Damnenka of Homel Tsentralny Borough Court sentenced two members of the Belarusian Association of Journalists Zmitser Karmazin and Aleh Ryzhkou to BYR 700,000 each for ‘violating the procedures of conducting street actions.’ The judge denied all the motions to summon witnesses so that the actual circumstances of the rally. On the same day Homel Regional Prosecutor’s Office issued a warning to another BAJ member Tatsiana Bublikava for working with the Poland-based BELSAT independent TV channel.
24.02.2009 IFJ Calls for Belarus Media Reform as New Law Takes Effect
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called upon the Belarus government to bring in radical reforms to media and to abandon the strategy set out in a divisive new law that came into force on 8 February.
"Belarus media requires invigorating reform, not a new media law that merely turns the screw ever tighter on the independent media," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. The IFJ says that last minute softening of the legislation and the recent return of two independent newspapers to state distribution system do not disguise the harsh reality that "Belarus journalists are the most oppressed in Europe."
The IFJ supports the Belarus Association of Journalists (BAJ), which is calling for reform of the media sector. It says the European Union should make normalisation of relations with Belarus dependent on a genuine commitment to free expression.
24.02.2009 Supreme Economic Court reverses decision by first instance court
On 23 February the Supreme Economic Court reversed the verdict by a first instance court obliging the owner of the Borisovskiye novosti independent newspaper to pay over BYR 48,000,000 for ‘illegal business activity’ (part 1 of Article 12.7 of the Administrative Code). The decision is final and the case is terminated. ‘It means that the company has been found not guilty, it will not have to pay the fine and its income will not be confiscated’, said the lawyer Siarhei Zikratski. However, the newspaper has been deprived of its retail license and cannot be distributed freely. Now, after the verdict by the Supreme Economic Court, the Borisovskiye novosti may regain the license. ‘We won’t be able to sell the newspaper until the case is settled’, says Siarhei Zikratski.
24.02.2009 Solidarity picket held in Minsk
On 23 February several activists of the Young Front unregistered youth organizations held a picket of solidarity with Artsiom Dubski, one of the persons involved in the notorious ‘case of 14’, in downtown Minsk. Earlier this year the general prosecutor’s office initiated a criminal prosecution of the activist for cell communication fraud. Artsiom Dubski was arrested on 13 February as he was crossing the Ukrainian border and taken to Babruisk detention center. He was accused of evading the verdict. The trial is due on 3 March. The peaceful rally was not stopped by the police. The activist’s party-mates said they were going to hold similar actions daily unless Dubski is released.
24.02.2009 Franak Vyachorka was beaten on day he was called up
The military prosecutor’s office admitted the fact of beating of the leader of the “BPF Youth” on the day he was called up.
Father of the opposition activist, deputy head of the Belarusian Popular Front Vintsuk Vyachorka, received an answer to his complaint of January 29 from the Minsk inter-garrison prosecutor’s office.
The answer, signed by lieutenant colonel of justice A. Vasilyuk, deputy head of the Minsk inter-garrison military prosecutor, informed Vintsuk Vyachorka that he was denied instigation of a criminal case against staff of the recruiting center of the Savetski district and the 432nd Main military clinic medical center on the ground using physical force and abuse of power.
24.02.2009 Zmitser Khvedaruk to be operated today
Forcefully drafted into army “Young Front” activist Zmitser Khvedaruk is at Republican Military Hospital in Minsk.
As Charter’97 press center has learnt from the activist is to be operated on varicose veins today.
“At first I was taken to hospital in Barysau, where doctors said they would operate me only on April 14, because they didn’t have enough places. Later, when I returned to the military unit, I was sent to Minsk to undergo analyses, and they decided to operate me today,” Zmitser Khvedaruk said.
24.02.2009 Pickets in support of political prisoners near pre-trial detention center in Valadarski Street
Pickets of solidarity with new political prisoners continue to take place near the pre-trial detention center of city militia department of the Minsk city executive committee.
At 6.00 p.m. February 23, activists of the civil campaign “European Belarus” came to the pre-trial detention center in Valadarski Street. They held portraits of Maksim Dashuk, a new Belarusian political prisoner, arrested on Monday. In spite of attempts of riot militia to stop it, the picket lasted for 30 minutes, as it was planned.