Minsk City Court upholds 5-day arrest to Henik Loika
Minsk City Court considered the appeal
of sculptor Henik Loika against the verdict of Liudmila Lapo, Judge
of Frinzenski District Court of Minsk. Let us remind that Mr. Loika
had been punished with 5 days of arrest for an action in support of
the Belarusian language held by him on the International Mother
Language Day, 21 February. The formal reason for the verdict was that
he had unfurled a banner with the inscription "Let me
congratulate you on the International Mother Language Day! Gymnasium
#4 used to be the last Belarusian-language school!"
Mr. Loika solicited for holding the court proceedings at Minsk City Court in the Belarusian language, but the petition was dismissed by Judge Aliaksei Bychko with reference to Article 2.11 of the Process-Executive Law of Administrative Offenses, which allegedly allowed holding court proceedings in Russian.
Lawyer Dar'ya Katkouskaya says that such explanation of the law is inadmissible: "If someone says that he has this or that right and wants to use it, the court cannot decide for him what language is to be used, but must ensure the observation of this right."
The lawyer says that such decision of the judge is unlawful and can serve as a reason for reversal of the verdict for process reasons.
The counsel also pointed at numerous violations on the part of the court during the initial trial. In particular, Judge Lapo didn't let the defendant to speak Belarusian, interrupted the counsel and didn't try to clear all circumstances of the case. Mr. Loika had no previous administrative penalties and is a father of three children. Though the accusation article also provided such forms of penalty as warning and fine, the judge sentenced the defendant to 5 days of arrest. The counsel considers this sentence as groundlessly severe.
At the same time, Judge Bychko ignored all arguments of the plaintiffs and left the verdict to Mr. Loika standing.
Radio "Liberty" asked Mr. Loika to comment on the verdict. "It is absolutely lawless. I don't know where to seek the truth after all this. However, I knew, I was told that there would be such a verdict."
The head of the Belarusian Language Society, Aleh Trusau, has filed an appeal to the head of the court, Valiantsin Sukala, concerning the trial of Mr. Loika: "The same day I filed a protest to Mr. Sukala concerning the initial trial. There was a precedent – the counsel was prohibited to speak Bealrusian, which is an administrative offense. There is an article which punishes those who restricts the use of the state language. I am waiting for an answer," commented Mr. Trusau.
Judge Bychko behaved brutally at the trial. At the beginning of the hearing he expelled Mrs. Manko, who protested against holding the proceedings in the Russian language. Later, he also expelled Henik's sister Valiantsina, who just asked some innocent question.