VIKTAR IVASHKEVICH TRIED BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
On 11 September Pershamaiski district court ruled to hear the criminal case over Ivashkevich behind closed doors. This decision was made with violation of procedure. The judge requested that everybody present in the courtroom (including journalists) should leave the court session. The people refused to leave, and the judge called for a special police forces brigade.
Young people in sports clothes, resembling skin-heads, stopped journalist Valery Shchukin on the stairs. They tried to drag him down and tore his shirt. It turned out the skin-headed young people were policemen. Valery Shchukin immediately filed a complaint about their actions to court and to Pershamaiski borough police board.
The judge violated the judicial procedure with the ruling to close the trial for public.
According to the Code of Criminal Procedure, the judge can close the hearing only in the following cases: protection of state secrets, trials over people under 16, cases, connected with sexual crimes and other cases, with a purpose to prevent information spread on privacy matters or information, which humiliates trial participants, and for protection of a victim, witnesses or other trial participants.
Ivashkevich is charged in attempted crime under Art. 367 part 2 of the Criminal Code "Slander against the President of the Republic of Belarus". Ivashkevich faces up to 5 years of prison for "spreading deliberately false and humiliating information about the President, connected with accusation in a grave crime".
Besides that, Ivashkevich is charged under Art. 368 part 2 of the Criminal Code with public insult of the President. The article provides for up to 3 years of prison.
The prosecution states, Ivashkevich attempted to insult and falsely accuse the President of corruption, when he decided to publish article "Thief Must Be in Prison" in his newspaper.
The article was written on the eve of the presidential election in September 2001. It contained information about facts of possible corruption in the President's Office and state arms trade.
According to the Belarusian legislation, slander is considered committed if at least one person learns about it. However, the issue with that article was not distributed. On request of censor Uladzimir Hlushakow the prosecutor's office stopped its printing and seized all 39 500 copies which had already been printed from the publishing house. None of the copies reached the readers.
That is way Ivashkevich is charged not with "slander", but "attempted slander".