Supreme Court upholds punishment of members of democratic candidate’s team
On 28 September 2008, the day before the election, three residents of Svetlahorsk, proxies of a candidate to the Parliament, were detained and fined.
All of the detainees believe that the detention was made with the aim to hinder their agitation: the rival of their candidate was Valiantsina Kavalenka, who at that time was an MP and the vice-chair of Svetlahorsk district executive committee. Viktar Akhramchuk, Sviatlana Mikhalchanka and Dzmitry Shavialenka were detained by the police while agitating for a candidate of the United Democratic Forces Siarhei Daineka. They searched the car by which the proxies were driving and found there 56 copies of the Tovarishch newspaper, 15 copies of Hlytok Pavetra and 77 copies of the informational bulletin Vybary-08.
Judge Iryna Aliseika fined them 1.4 million rubles each. As it follows from the materials of the administrative case, the duty policeman of Svetlahorsk district police department wrote in his report ‘a woman who did not introduce herself said that ‘a man was handing out printed editions’. D.Mikhanovich, inspector of the road police of Svetlahorsk district police department, said that during the examination of the car the fact of ‘transportation of political leaflets and newspapers was established’. In his testimony the car driver said that the woman and the men were handing out some newspapers, but he did not see the titles.’
On the basis of this evidence the judge found V.Akhramchuk, S.Mikhalchanka and D.Shevialenka guilty of distribution of the oppositional press.
Then judge Aliseiaka agreed with the police conclusion’s that Hlytok pavetra included the information that insulted the honor and dignity of the president of the Republic of Belarus and that Vybary-08 was a periodical that had no imprint (she qualified the latter as a periodical because the date of issue and the contact E-mail address were printed in it. The judge took the opinion that the issue of Vybary-08 without an imprint was a violation of the law On press and other mass media.
The citizens did not take the blame. At the trial S.Mikhalchanka confessed that she had handed out the Tovarish (a legally registered newspaper). Akhramchuk and Shevialenka stated that they were sticking posters. All of the accused believe that Vybary-08 was not a periodical, but a one-time edition and therefore could not violate the law on press.
At first the activists appealed against the unfair verdict to Homel oblast court. As it gave no result, they applied to the Supreme Court, which also upheld the initial verdict. In his answer the vice-head of the Supremer Court stated that the guilt of the detainees in the violations had been proved well enough.