Police drop charges against journalist Andrzej Poczobut, his guilt not proved
MINSK, March 15. The Office of the Investigative Committee’s Hrodna regional department completed the investigation of criminal charges brought under Par. 2 of Art. 367 of the Criminal Code (“defamation of the President committed by a person who has previously been convicted of libel”) against Hrodna journalist Andrzej Poczobut, the BelaPAN news agency reports.
According to the Investigative Committee’s spokesman Siarhei Sharshanevich, due to the diverging findings of several linguistic examinations, as well as the fact that the investigation failed to produce any objective evidence to support the commission of a crime, on March 15 the preliminary investigation was ordered to be discontinued.
According to the order, the measure of restraint imposed on the journalist during the investigation (release on his own recognizance) was canceled.
Andrei Poczobut faced repeated charges under Art. 367 of the Criminal Code. Investigators believed a number of publications produced by the journalist, including several posts at popular web resources, “contained defamatory statements against the head of state.” Poczobut was arrested on June 21, 2012 in his apartment in Hrodna. After the search, he was taken to the prosecutor’s office, and then placed in a detention center. On June 30 the journalist was released on bail.
In the summer of 2011 Poczobut was convicted for “defaming the president.” Then Leninski District Court of Hrodna sentenced him to three years of suspended imprisonment. In the second case the journalist faced restriction or deprivation of liberty for up to five years. Poczobut pleaded not guilty and refused to testify to the investigation.
Human rights organizations and the European Union condemned the Belarusian authorities for the criminal prosecution of another journalist.