BPF Vitsebsk leader charged with violation of Mass Media Code
“I am accused of the exceeding the number of copies of the party’s newsletter “Magistrate,” which we handed out on March 22. But nobody counted the copies then, and I do not know where the final figure comes from. Moreover, to date, all the copies must have been destroyed. However, they now appear in the new administrative charges I am facing,” says the chairman of the Vitsebsk regional branch of the Belarusian Popular Front Leanid Autukhou.
On April 24 Leanid Autukhou was summoned to Kastrychnitski district police department of Vitsebsk, where he was charged with violation of mass media legislation. The policemen also ordered to give explanations, says the activist, “That’s what I wrote: the newsletter “Magistrate” specify the circulation, 299 copies, this is not a periodical, and it is not subject to registration. And I do not know how they counted the copies we had. They did not do this in front of us. They took the newsletters away, and then the police came and told to the person who drafted the paper, “Write – 1,080 copies.”
The events described by Mr. Autukhou happened back on 22 March, on the eve of Freedom Day. On that day, Leanid Autukhou, along with his fellow party member Kanstantsin Smolikau, was detained in the shopping center “Evikom.” Both were charged with violation of mass events legislation, saying that the newsletter “Magistrate” contained an invitation to a meeting on March 25 banned by local authorities.
During the trial, Kanstantsin Smolikau tried to explain to Judge Ina Hrabouskaya that the distribution of the newsletter had nothing to do with the mass event. However, she sentenced both activists to 5 days of arrest. They served half of the period in the detention center before the trial, as they were detained on Friday and held in custody until Monday, which was a violation of the legal standard that the court must take place no later than 48 hours after the arrest...
According to the court, all the evidence had to be destroyed. However, some copies of “Magistrate” remained intact to this day, says Leanid Autukhou, “The court ruling came into effect, but “Magistrate” is OK. As I was told, after the trial it was allegedly solicited by the chiefs of Kastrychnitski police department. I did not know anything about this, too; nor did I know about the counting which took place without my presence. I think that the administrative prosecution is the pressure on the opposition, so that they were afraid to say a word about their views, so that they could not communicate their ideas to other people, to make any truthful information unavailable.”
As a result, the Chairman of the BPF’s Vitsebsk branch is awaiting trial. The date of the court hearing is not yet assigned.