Bialynichy resident fined 5 mln over libeling manager of state-owned farm
Judge Uladzimir Huz of Bialynichy District Court sentenced yesterday Valery Vusik, resident of the village of Lebiadzianka, to a fine of 5 mln rubles for allegedly defaming manager of the Lebiadzianka state-owned farm Piotr Bialou and for the distribution of the independent newspaper “Mahiliouski Vybar”. The court considered two administrative charges at a time. Both were based on reports by policeman Siarhei Karytkin. Earlier, the court refused to consider the reports, as they were made in violation of Article 10.2 of the Administrative Code. The police reports were sent back for revision in Bialynichy police department, where they were eventually “finalized”.
At the beginning of the trial Judge Uladzimir Huz removed from the courtroom Mahiliou human rights defender Barys Bukhel for alleged violation of the order of the trial after receiving three warnings.
The court also rejected the defendant’s motion for a lawyer.
The Court further failed to take into account the written testimonies of a number of villagers of Lebiadzianka, which confirmed that the violations in the activities of the farm described in Valery Vusik’s publication “What has changed in the last few years on the Lebiadzianka farm?” in the newspaper “Mahiliouski Vybar” were true.
Moreover, the judge referred to the fact that employees of Bialynichy police department ordered not to open a criminal case against the administration of the farm as the facts stated in Valery Vusik’s complaint were not reportedly confirmed.
The court also ignored the testimony by the “Mahiliouski Vybar” publisher Barys Vyrvich who said that the newspaper is issued in accordance with the Constitution and the Mass Media Code, and can be distributed by any citizen of the Republic of Belarus without any restrictions.
As a result, the court found Valery Vusik guilty of both offenses and sentenced him to a fine of 3 mln for slandering the manager of the Lebiadzianka farm and a fine of 2 mln for violation of Article 17 of the Media Code.
According to human rights defender Barys Bukhel, the court from the beginning was aimed at the imposition of sentence on Valery Vusik.
“The court violated all of the procedural rules by dismissing Valery Vusik’s request for counsel. I have the impression that the decision was predetermined before the start of the hearing. The judge was not at all upset that the policemen provided three administrative reports under one number, but with different dates. The judge also did not take into account the fact that Valery Vusik’s complaints submitted to different agencies to challenge illegal actions by the police have not yet received an official response,” says Barys Bukhel.
Barys Vyrvich, publisher of the “Mahiliouski Vybar” newspaper, is surprised by the decision of the court.
“Frankly speaking, I’m shocked by this decision of Bialynichy court. The court did not consider my testimony that the newspaper is distributed in accordance with the Constitution and the Media Law of the Republic of Belarus. Meanwhile, I read out Article 5 of the media Code, saying that “everyone is guaranteed freedom of opinion and expression”,” says Barys Vyrvich.
Valery Vusik is upset by the court ruling, but says he is going to continue to defend his case.
“I got wrongfully accused. The court did not listen to my evidence, did not take into account the written testimonies of others speaking of abuses on the Lebiadzianka farm. I will continue to fight for justice, I am going to appeal the decision in Mahiliou Regional Court,” says Valery Vusik.
On April 2, Bialinichy District Court will continue hearing another administrative charges brought against Valery Vusik for allegedly illegally visiting the Lebiadzianka farm with a crew of an independent TV channel on February 28.