RABOCHY EDITOR-IN-CHIEF TO STAND TRIAL
On 11 September Pershamaiski borough court of Minsk will open hearings on Viktar Ivashkevich's criminal case. Viktar Ivashkevich, editor-in-chief of an independent newspaper Rabochy (Worker), is charged with attempted slandering against the President of Belarus. Viktar Ivashkevich faces up to 5 years of imprisonment for "spreading deliberately false and abusive information about the President, linked to accusation of a heavy crime" (Art. 367 part 2 of the Criminal Code).
Besides, Ivashkevich is charged with public insult of the President (Art. 368 part 2). This article of the Belarusian Criminal Code carries penalty of up to 3 years of imprisonment.
According to the prosecutor's office, Ivashkevich made an attempt to insult and falsely accuse the President of corruption, when he had decided to publish an article "Thief Must Be In Prison".
The newspaper issue, which contained that article, was printed on the eve of the Belarusian presidential election in September 2001. The article contained information about the facts of possible corruption in President Lukashenka's office and state arms trade.
According to the Belarusian legislation, a slander is committed, if at least one person learns about it. However, this newspaper issue was not spread. Censor Uladzimir Hlushakow informed the prosecutor's office about the issue being printed. The officers confiscated all copies (39,500 out of the planned 400,000) which had been already printed. No copies of the newspaper reached the readers.
That is why the charges against Ivashkevich are formulated not as slander, but "attempted slander". This is the first incident in Belarus, when a person faces such charges.
Viktar Ivashkevich pleads not guilty. According to him, the wide public had known about the facts, mentioned in the article, from other press, radio and Internet sources.
Ivashkevich will be defended by Tatsiana Stankevich.
In the past 2 years, 13 people – journalists, politicians, opposition youth – were charged with violation of Art. 367 and 368 of the Criminal Code. All 13 were found guilty. The victim – President A. Lukashenka – did not appear on any of the trials.