Ivan Kruk is fined for giving several newspapers to neighbor
On 26 June Astravets district court ruled that the local democratic activist Ivan Kruk was to be fined 700 000 rubles for ‘distribution of periodicals without imprint’.
During the court sitting Mr. Kruk again made several motions: the first of them – for dropping the case because of absence of corpus delicti. The defendant tried to convince the court that he only gave his neighbor several newspapers for reading, but did not distribute any periodicals without imprint. The court declined the motion.
Then he moved for impeachment of the judge. This motion was declined as well. The judge again questioned the local police inspector.
The trial was monitored by the activist of the United Civil Party Mikola Ulasevich. ‘In fact, all case collapsed in front of my eyes. Ivan Kruk confessed that he had given newspapers to a neighbor, but the court did not have any other facts. They again questioned the policeman who had given confused testimony yesterday, in order to put down his testimony correct.’
Ivan Kruk repeatedly stated that the authorities violated his constitutional rights to receive and disseminate information. After the trial he said: ‘I say it right in the court hall: they want to prevent people from getting any information. The Ministry of Information threw me to the court, and the court appeared between two fires…’
The head of the center of legal assistance of the Belarusian Association of Journalists Mikhail Pastukhou stated that it was not the first such case. Earlier Siarhei Panamarenka was punished for the issue of an unregistered edition with the circulation of 299 copies. The court considered that such decision corresponds to the law On press (according to the law, one needs to register an edition only if the circulation is 300 copies and more).
‘Nevertheless, even the new edition of the law provides the opportunity of issue of editions with circulation less than 300 copies without the state registration and the establishment of a juridical body. These cases witness that a campaign of harassment of small-circulation newspapers has started in the country,’ added Mr. Pastukhou.
On 26 April Ivan Kruk met his neighbor-pensioner out in the street and gave him the newspapers Astravetski Vesnik, Mirny Atam, Novy Chas, Glotok Vozdukha and Vileishchyna, where articles about the planned erection of a nuclear power station were placed.
Later the police confiscated the newspapers, took from Mr. Kruk written explanations and forwarded them to the Ministry of Information together with the newspapers. There a report for distribution of printed editions without imprint was composed and passed to Astravets district court for a trial.