Four political prisoners sentenced to 5 years each for plotting riots that never happened
The Maskoŭski District Court of Minsk convicted today four political prisoners, who volunteered at Viktar Babaryka’s presidential campaign, Ihar Yarmolau, Dzmitry Kanapelka, Uladzislau Karetski, and Mikalai Saseu, who were accused of “preparing for riots” (Part 1, Article 13 and Part 2, Article 293 of the Criminal Code) and “other training of persons to participate in riots” (Part 3 of Article 293 of the Criminal Code).
Judge Sviatlana Bandarenka sentenced each of the defendants to 5 years of imprisonment in a medium-security penal colony. The court also ordered to confiscate a KIA Rio and several laser pointers, the items described as instruments of crime.
After hearing the verdict, Ihar Yarmolau shouted: “See you at a new trial! You will pay for everything!”
The campaign volunteers were found guilty of planning to “counteract” police officers using laser pointers and firecrackers the post-election protests of August 9-12 in Minsk.
The key aggravating circumstances were the commission of the crime by a group of individuals and the grounds of “political and ideological hostility” as its motive.
According to the defense, the public prosecutor deliberately confused the notions of “riots” and “protests”. The prosecutor spoke of the riots as a fact. Meanwhile, there is no evidence that there were any riots in the main flashpoints hit by the protests, since there were no arsons, destruction of property or violent resistance to the police.
At the request of the investigator, the city authorities responded that there were protests or spontaneous group violations of public order, or unauthorized mass events. The authorities also denied that there were any facts of using laser pointers and pyrotechnics after the outbreak of the protests on August 9, 2020. Moreover, no one sought medical treatment for injuries of the eyes from exposure to laser beams, and an ophthalmology expert examined at the trial concluded that the laser pointers seized from the defendants could not have resulted in any damage due to their low power. According to Yarmolau, the laser pointers were needed to distract the police and “buy time to escape.”
The defense lawyers further stressed that there was no evidence that the defendants acted together. Some of them had never met before the August 9-12 events.
The counsels condemned the fact that a key witness, Yury Vaskresenski, himself a former member of Babaryka’s campaign, whose written testimony was much quoted by the prosecutor, was never questioned in court.
The motives of political and ideological hostility allegedly pursued by the political prisoners were also not proved and substantiated, the lawyers said.
Finally, the defense criticized the prosecutor’s request to confiscate the car. The KIA Rio belongs to Yarmolau’s mother, was bought with her money, was exclusively a means of transportation, it did not carry any prohibited items and was not itself a means of committing the alleged crime.