Court in Hrodna fines activists over memorial picket
On November 25, a court in Hrodna heard the administrative cases of four people who attended the traditional action in memory of the 1863 anti-Russian uprising in the town of Svislach on October 26. Judge Alena Piatrova fined journalist and human rights activist Uladzimir Khilmanovich and United Civil Party activist Jerzy Grygencha 5.25 million rubles each, and Radio Liberty journalist Mikhail Karnevich and UCP activist Vital Lopasau 2.25 mln each on charges of participating in an unsanctioned event.
In fact, all were convicted on the basis of merely being present in Svislach on the day, since the materials of their cases and the testimony of witnesses, local police officers, had nothing that would confirm the commission of any offense. However, this did not affect the judge’s decision. Particularly absurd was the penalty for an accredited journalist, Mikhail Karnevich, who was covering the event on the day. Before announcing a decision in his case, the judge took a break, perhaps to consult with her superiors, but an acquittal ruling did not follow.
The situation is commented on by one of the convicts, Uladzimir Khilmanovich: “The judge in fact has not been able to articulate what exactly each of us violated: both the videos and witnesses’ testimonies were actually in our favor. All these administrative proceedings are absurd from a legal point of view. In fact, they can and should be considered only as a form of political persecution of citizens for their views, while the judgment in Karnevich’s case is also a de facto ban on the profession. With the same success Judge Piatrova could have fined the police officers who were present on that day in Svislach on Memorial Day.”
Previously, local activist Yury Hlebik was fined for participating in the same action. Ten more people from different cities of Belarus are yet to stand trials.