Court regards “standing along the sidewalk facing the street with red flowers in hands..." as picket
Judge Kamisarau of Minsk City Court dismissed a complaint filed by Siarhei Yaumenau against the decision in an administrative case which has already entered into force.
According to the administrative case file, on September 16, Tsentralny District Court of Minsk found that on September 14, while being at the intersection of Niamiha Street and Haradski Val Street, Yaumenau took part in an unsanctioned picket, “standing ALONG (!)the sidewalk facing the street in a group of five people while holding red flowers” in violation of the laws of the Republic of Belarus on the order and organization of pickets, thus violated Article 10 of the Law "On Mass Events in the Republic of Belarus" of 30.12.1997.
Yaumenau plead not guilty and explained to the Court that at the time he was, together with his with friends, going towards detention center No. 1 in Valadarski Street to lay flowers at the prison wall in memory of Ihar Ptsichkin, who died while serving a sentence earlier this year.
On September 16, Judge Natallia Vaitsekhovich of Tsentralny District Court of Minsk sentenced the activist to a fine of 600,000 rubles.
Then Siarhei Yaumenau, with assistance from Viasna lawyers, appealed the decision to the Minsk City Court.
The witnesses, police officers, did not deny the activist’s words: as seen from the decision, they only confirmed his presence in the specified location. As stated in the verdict, according to their explanations, he "was in a group of five people, holding red flowers, thus attracting the attention of people passing by." However, the court ruling fails to specify the time of the alleged offense and what actions were viewed as picketing.
Comment from the HRC "Viasna". Judges of Tsentralny District Court and the Minsk City Court assessed this circumstance incorrectly and mistakenly viewed the actions described by the witnesses as an administrative offense. For can holding red flowers at a certain place be considered an offense? Even the Law "On Mass Events in the Republic of Belarus", which the judges referred to, defines the picket differently. We were surprised at wording: "standing along the sidewalk" with red flowers in hands in the middle of the day in the center of the city can indeed attract the attention of passers-by...
In the complaint, much attention was paid to the justification of the fact that citizens are free in the way of the peaceful expression of their views. Judge of the Minsk City Court, unfortunately, limited himself to confirming the presence of provisions on liability for violation of the order of holding events. But it was the unconstitutionality of the rule that allows prosecuting for peacefully expressing one’s views that Yaumenau stressed in his complaint.