Vitsebsk: arrests of oppositionists continue
Young activist Taras Surhan, a friend of Siarhei Kavalenka, has been sentenced to 7 days of arrest. Valer Ramanenka and Ales Halavan, activists of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party, were detained and guarded to the Pershamaiski district police department of Vitsebsk. Pavel Seviarynets, who visited the detainees at the police department, said that ‘haunting of democratic activists has started in Vitsebsk’.
T. Tsyhankova, Judge of the Chyhunachny district court of Vitsebsk found him guilty of using foul language (such charges are actively used in Belarus to arrest oppositionists in order to mask political grounds of crackdown).
Taras Surhan tried to contest the fact of hooliganism: he told that on 9 January he went out of his house to throw out rubbish, and unknown persons told him he should get into the car and go with them. The people in mufti turned out to be policemen, and they were witnesses in the court. They said Surhan used foul language, RFE/RL informs.
The oppositionist challenged the judge saying he does not trust the court to try this case. But his challenge was overruled.
Pro-democracy activists lodged an appeal to the chairperson of the court Raisa Lupiankova that Judge Tsyhankova was rude and discriminated against the accused.
Right after the announcement of the verdict Taras Surhan was placed under arrest and taken to the detention facility where he is to spend the next 7 days.
Another activist, Ales Halavan, was detained on the way to the polyclinic. He is one of the leaders of the democratic movement of Vitsebsk and has been many times detained by police. The last detention occurred on 27 September while handing out the bulletins Pramen and Krynitsa, during a visit of Kirill, all-Russian Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. On 30 September he was beaten by unidentified persons who hinted that the detention was connected to his complaint against the detention. At the end of 2009 Ales Halavan went to the Latvian capital, Riga, for a seminar of young Christian democrats and almost decided not to return to Belarus, but later changed his mind. After the return home he was long ill and spent some time in hospital.
The mass detentions and searches in Vitsebsk started after hanging a white-red-white flag at the top of the 35-meter New Year’s Tree at Peramohi Square in Vitsebsk on 7 January. Siarhei Kavalenka, 34, was detained near the tree. On 10 January he was thrown into a temporary detention facility for two months on a decision of the prosecutor of Vitsebsk. A case under Article 339, part 2 of the Criminal Code (repeated hooliganism, or committed by a group of persons, or connected with committing less serious bodily harm) was instigated against him. Under this article a punishment could be up to 6 years of imprisonment. On 12 January the oppositionist was released under a written undertaking not to leave the place.