Critical vlogger given 4 years in prison over ‘slandering’ and ‘insulting’ Lukashenka and top officials
Ruslan Linnik, a political prisoner and a blogger running a YouTube channel criticizing the authorities, has been sentenced to 4 years in a general-security penal colony, after the Maskoŭski District Court of Minsk found him today guilty on charges of “slandering the president” (Part 1 and Part 2 of Art. 367), “insulting the president” (Part 1 of Art. 368), “insulting a government official” (Art. 369), and “slander” (Art. 188).
According to the indictment, the videos shared on Linnik’s YouTube channel contained criminal content attacking Aliaksandr Lukashenka, former KGB chairman Valery Vakulchyk, former Interior Minister Yury Karayeu and his deputy Henadz Kazakevich, together with Defense Minister Viktar Khrenin.
The blogger was detained on February 20 in Viciebsk.
In court, Ruslan Linnik pleaded not guilty, refused to testify, and in his last statement told about the psychological and physical pressure he suffered at the hands of the security forces.
In particular, the blogger said he was forced to record a video confession. He agreed, because he “knew the consequences of saying ‘No’.”
The blogger’s lawyer pointed out that there was not enough evidence for the guilty verdict and the case lacked the necessary elements of the crimes charged. The counsel stressed that slander would mean a fact that is not true, meanwhile there were no specific facts in the statements shared by the defendant. The lawyer gave cited an example from one of the videos: “Lukashenka is a gangster.” The counsel notes that this quote does not contain defamation:
“A gangster is an assessment, not a confirmation of a fact. If it were another word with profanity, it would be an insult.”
The lawyer cited another example from the indictment: “Lukashenka kills the people.”
“If we follow the logic of the accusation, then we should have blamed this statement for the fact that the president is accused of committing a particularly serious crime,” the lawyer said.
The defense counsel agrees that the blogger’s quotes were negative, but disapproval itself does not indicate obscenity.