Weekly review of post-election situation in Belarus (15-22 May)
Three trials of 16 participants of the 19 December 2010 post-election events were finished last week, 9 defendants were convicted under Par. 1 Art. 342 of the Criminal Code (organization and preparation of activities that breach the public order, or active participation in them). On 16 May sentences were handed down to Iryna Khalip, Pavel Seviarynets and Siarhei Martseleu, on 20 May – to Uladzimir Niakliayeu, Siarhei Vazniak, Aliaksandr Fiaduta, Vital Rymasheuski, Andrei Dzmitryeu and Nasta Palazhanka. The verdicts appeared to be rather mild, as compared to the previous ones: those were mostly suspended imprisonment or probation. The pronouncement of sentences to seven more persons involved in the criminal proceedings on riots charges were postponed, including 2 presidential candidates Mikalai Statkevich and Dzmitry Us.
Politically motivated criminal cases
On 16 May, judge Zhana Brysina of Minsk Zavodski District Court pronounced sentences to the accused in the organization and preparation of activities that breach public order or active participation in them (Par. 1 of Art. 342 of the Criminal Code): journalist, wife of former presidential candidate Aliaksandr Sannikau Iryna Khalip was sentenced to 2 years of imprisonment suspended for 2 years, the leader of the BCD, member of the BAJ Pavel Seviarynets - 3 years of restriction of freedom through compulsory labour), head of election headquarters of presidential candidate Mikalai Statkevich Siarhei Martseleu - 2 years of probation (with probation for 2 years). Human rights activists have prepared an analytical review of the trial.
On 20 May, Judge Zhana Zhukouskaya Frunzenski District Court pronounced sentences to Uladzimir Niakliayeu - 2 years of imprisonment suspended for 2 years, Siarhei Vazniak, Aliaksandr Fiaduta, Vital Rimasheuski, Andrei Dzmitryeu - 2 years of probation each, Nasta Palazhanka - 1 year of probation.
According to Viasna’s evaluation of the trials in the cases on the events of 19 December 2010:
- sentences in the criminal cases under Par. 1, 2 Art. 293 and Par. 342 of the Criminal Code are illegal and should be repealed or revised;
- all those convicted in these criminal cases are recognized as political prisoners by the Human Rights Center Viasna – it demands their immediate release.
On 18 May, the criminal trial of seven persons involved in the Square events was over, including two presidential candidates. Prosecutor Kiryl Chubkavets demanded to sentence Mikalai Statkevich to 8 years of imprisonment, Dzmitr Usa – 7 years, Aliaksandr Klaskouski accused under three articles of the Criminal Code ("organizing mass disorders", "assignment of another title or authority" and "insulting a government official") – 8.5 years, Artsiom Hrybkou, Dzmitry Bulanau, Aliaksandr Kviatkevich and Andrei Pazniak - 4 years each. In addition, in Hrybkou’s case the prosecutor considers it necessary to use compulsory treatment for alcoholism, although the case file has no materials of a relevant expertise. The lawyers for all the defendants required to acquit them. The sentencing was scheduled for 16 p.m. on 20 May, but postponed due to the illness of Judge Liudmila Hrachova.
The criminal investigation into the case of the UCP leader Anatol Liabedzka, as well as those of the party activists Anatol Paulau and Aleh Korban charged with involvement in the so-called riots was extended until June.
Detentions and administrative penalties
On 16 May, Minsk Partyzanski District Court sentenced deputy chair of the
Young Front Mikalai Dzemidzenka, who was detained on May 14, to an administrative
detention for 15 days for attempting to hang a white-red-white flag. Before the
trial, he managed to say that was going on a hunger strike.
Persons refusing to be fingerprinted were still subject to administrative liability by the authorities. Pinsk resident Andrei Asavets was fined BYR 700,000 for refusing to be fingerprinted, four more similar cases are in the courts of Pinsk.
On 17 April, Minsk Pershamaiski District Court sentenced well-known blogger Yauhen Lipkovich to a fine of BYR 525,000 on charges of "insulting" the president of the Union of Writers of Belarus General Mikalai Charhinets. The charges stemmed from an action on March 19, during which Lipkovich burned Charhinets’s book "The Mystery of the Oval Office."
On 18 May, Homel police once again detained the activist of the UCP and the Movement "For Freedom" Uladzimir Niapomniashchykh. The charges stemmed from an inscription on his T-shirt "For Belarus Without Lukashenka" and "Enough, Fed Up!"
On 20 May, the coordinator of the "European Belarus" Maksim Viniarski was sentenced to 15 days of administrative detention on charges of disorderly conduct and disobeying the lawful demands of a police officer. The verdict was pronounced by Judge Liudmila Lapo of Minsk Frunzenski District Court.
Violations of the right to freedom of speech
According to lawyer Aliaksandr Birylau, his client reporter of the Polish «Gazeta Wyborcza» Andrzej Poczobut, facing two criminal charges at a time (Par. 1 Art. 368 of the Criminal Code – “insulting the President” and Par. 1 Art. 367 – “libel of the President”), filed a motion to dismiss the criminal case against him after studying the materials of the investigation. In addition, Mr. Poczobut pleaded that in case he has to stand trial the alleged victim Aliaksandr Lukashenka has to attend it in person. The case of the journalist has already reached the court.
The hearing of the case of the independent newspaper “Narodnaya Volia” was suspened. On 17 May, the Supreme Economic Court held a preliminary hearing on a claim from the Information Ministry to close the edition. The court granted a petition for review of the case after the results of the appeal hearing.
On 18 May, the Supreme Economic Court held a preliminary hearing in the case of an appeal by the independent newspaper "Nasha Niva" against a third warning issued by the Information Ministry on April 14 for a publication on the terrorist attack in Minsk. Representatives of the editorial board filed a petition to summon a specialist in linguistics, but it was not satisfied. The consideration of the appeal is scheduled for May 30.
Prison detention conditions
On 17 May, at the trial of arson of the KGB building in Babruisk the accused Artsiom Prakapenka and Yauhen Vaskovich said of pressure during the investigation. On 19 May, the verdicts in the case were pronounced: Vaskovich, Prakapenka and Pavel Syramolatau received seven years of imprisonment in a high-security penal colony each.
Pressure by investigators was also reported by representative of the anarchist youth movement Mikalai Dziadok. On 18 May, Minsk Zavodski District Court began the trial of the activists of anarchist, civil, anti-Fascist and anti-nuclear movement Ihar Alinevich, Maksim Vetkin, Mikalai Dziadok, Aliaksandr Frantskevich and Yauhen Silivonchyk. The youths are accused of a series of attacks on government buildings, as well as hacking into a governmental web-site.
Yan Lahvinovich, hose hand was broken during the brutal crackdown on the Square protesters by the police, was told that the prosecutor's office had refused to initiate a criminal investigation into the beating.
Deputy chair of the Young Front Ivan Shyla filed a complaint with the Interior Minister and head of Minsk police against prison conditions in the detention center in Akrestsin Street in Minsk. During his term in the detention center poor conditions aggravated the activist’s allergies, however he was denied hospitalization and medication.
Violation of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly
Biaroza civil activist Halina Kavalevich and Tatsiana Alikhver were refused an application to hold a rally submitted to Biaroza district executive committee. The ban was signed by deputy chair Yauhen Tarasiuk.