Investigation of Poczobut’s Defaming Lukashenka Extended
The Hrodna regional office of the Investigative Committee of Belarus has prolonged its investigation of a libel case against journalist Andrzej Poczobut until November 21.
The 39-year-old Poczobut, a Hrodna-based correspondent of the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza and an ethnic Pole, was arrested at his home in Hrodna in western Belarus on June 21 for allegedly libeling Aliaksandr Lukashenka.
According to the findings of the inquiry, articles written by Mr. Poczobut and posted on the Internet “contained libelous statements concerning the head of state,” the Investigative Committee's spokesman, Paviel Traulka, told BelaPAN on June 22.
An examination by linguists found that the articles contained “words, phrases and expressions used with regard to the president of the Republic of Belarus that are libel and discredit the Republic of Belarus,” Mr. Traulka said.
Mr. Poczobut was released on his own recognizance on June 30 after being formally charged with a repeat offense of defaming the head of state, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
It was reported in July that a special team had been formed to investigate the charge against Mr. Poczobut. He has received no information about the course of the investigation since then.
The European Union and human rights organizations condemned the case against Mr. Poczobut as politically motivated.
In 2011, Mr. Poczobut spent three months in jail and was eventually sentenced to a suspended three-year prison term with two years' probation for allegedly insulting and defaming Aliaksandr Lukashenka in his articles.
As Mr. Poczobut told reporters, defamation was largely found in the fact that he had called Mr. Lukashenka a dictator.