First verdict in “Tsikhanouski case”: critical blogger Uladzimir Niaronski sentenced to 3 years in prison
The Lahojsk District Court has sentenced political prisoner Uladzimir Niaronski to a three-year imprisonment in a general-security penal colony, finding him guilty of calling to breach public order (Part 1 of Art 342 of the Criminal Code) and publicly insulting a government official (Art. 369).
The court, presided by Judge Aliaksandr Rybakou, concluded that the blogger, who runs a critical YouTube channel called “Sluck for Living”, acted in conspiracy with blogger Siarhei Tsikhanouski and politician Mikalai Statkevich. The “insult” charge stems from a YouTube video attacking head of the Sluck district executive committee Andrei Yancheuski.
Niaronski’s lawyer Siarhei Lepesh said that his client was accused of committing a less serious crime, which does not pose a great public danger. Nonetheless, he has been in custody for more than 7 months, after serving another month on administrative charges. The counsel stressed that during this time no evidence was obtained to substantiate the commission of the crime Niaronski was charged with.
“The author of the indictment limited himself to general phrases of an exclusively evaluative nature, which testifies to his bias against Niaronski, Statkevich, Seviarynets, and Tsikhanouski,” Lepesh said.
The lawyer adds that the indictment never mentions his client’s name.
“Likewise, the case file contains is no evidence to support these circumstances, as there is no proof of “calls to breach peace” allegedly distributed by Seviarynets, Tsikhanouski or Statkevich. None of them was questioned at the trial. Criminal cases against these persons have not yet reached court,” the lawyer stressed.
The prosecution also argued that Uladzimir Niaronski “decided to join Tsikhanouski and others in order to commit a crime.”
However, Niaronski consistently denied the very fact of having any intention to commit crimes. He explained that he really created the YouTube channel “Sluck for Living” with the help of Siarhei Tsikhanouski. But the purpose of its creation was to cover the life, including problematic issues, of his native Sluck district.