Vitsebsk activists fined for solidarity with political prisoners

2013 2013-02-22T16:51:58+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Judge Ina Hrabouskaya of Vitsebsk Kastrychnitski District Court sentenced today two members of the Belarusian Christian Democracy, Stanislau Laurenau and Aliaksei Kishchuk, to a fine of 3 mln rubles each, finding them guilty of holding an unsanctioned rally. Meanwhile, the Judge did not pay attention to numerous violations of the rights of both activists.

At the trial, which began on February 18 and ended on February 21, the two activists pleaded not guilty. They did not deny the fact that on February 16 they took to the street in Vitsebsk with a banner with the word “Freedom!” and displayed the portraits of political prisoners. But the guys were trying to prove that they expressed their own views, and did not break public order, nor did they try to speak to passers-by.

Meanwhile, the police, who arrived and arrested the activists a couple of minutes later, did not act according to law.

“We asked the policemen to give their names and produce their IDs. They refused, saying only that they were representatives of the authorities, and that we would learn everything in the police station. However, there was no conversation at the station. The policeman gave me a book, pointed to the article and told me to read. Then he asked if all was clear to me. And what can I understand if I do not have a legal education? It turns out they decided to explain my rights in that way. I wrote in the police report that my rights were not explained to me,” says Stanislau Laurenau.

The lawyer who defended the activists, pointed to the discrepancy of the data in the records and reports of the detention of the activists. It specified different times of detention and even different places where the activists stood with a banner: in one document it was written “next to the stop “Freedom Square”, while the other said it was “next to the stop “Summer Amphitheater”. No report on the seizure of the banner was made, although it is required by law. Moreover, the case file featured a document entitled “Report on the examination of the site of the offense.” Meanwhile, the lawyer says that such examinations and reports are made only in the case of a criminal offense...

The three witnesses representing the police failed to clearly explain the circumstances of the arrest. Judge Hrabouskaya disregarded all these violations of law, although judges often practiced the following: they send the case file back to the police “for improvement”, and considered the case later.

As Aliaksei Kishchuk said in his speech, the activists believe that the authorities violated their rights under Articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as a number of provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:

“We expressed our opinion. Because we believe that there should be no political prisoners. We did not interfere with the traffic, we did not create obstacles for pedestrians. Obviously, we were convicted for our political beliefs.”

The activists are going to appeal the court decision. Moreover, a complaint against the police officers will be submitted by witness Piotr Ivanou: during the arrest of the activists he saw the police create a dangerous situation. They drove in their car on the sidewalk, where pedestrians walk, and this fact is reflected even in the video footage that was shown in court.