Verdict on Pavel Levinau's case to be pronounced December 17
Vitsebsk human rights activist Pavel Levinau is a participants of a photo shoot with a graffiti depicting newspaper birds flying out of cages.Vitsebsk police qualified this photo shoot as an unauthorized picket.
Seven participants of the photo shoot were identified by the photos published on the web. Six of them have been sentenced to fines.
December 12, the trial of the seventh participant, Pavel Levinau, started. The first hearing, lead by Judge of the Chyhunachny District Court of Vitsebsk Alena Tsyhankova, lasted for about an hour.
Earlier, Tsyhankova issued sentences to four other defendants in the case. Two more were tried by Judge Dzianis Hubanau.
Participants of the photo shoot were found guilty and sentenced to fines. A passer-by who had joined the photo shoot on the spot, was sentenced to three days of arrest post factum, as he had been kept in custody until the trial.
At trial, Pavel Levinau tried to prove that the photo shoot was not picketing, that no one was forbidden to be photographed, and even asked to add to the case a file of photographs from his archive, taken in different circumstances. Mr. Levinau also asked to attach to the case the photos from an action held by foreign journalists in Brussels in order to support their Vitsebsk colleagues. The foreigners also got photographed with flowers and newspapers birds in their hands, as well as with posters “Is this a crime?”. However, the judge decided that these items had nothing to do with the case. Her decision was supported by Police major Aliaksandr Rybak, who had presented charges to participants of the photo shoot in Vitsebsk.
The human rights activist repeatedly declared disqualification of Judge Ellen Tsygankova and even wrote a complaint to the chair of the court with a request to "return the judge to the legal field". However, Judge Tsyhankova didn't grant his petitions.
Mr. Levinau also twice solicited for returning the case to the Chyhunachny District Police Department, as police major Aliaksandr Rybak had violated the law by drawing up the violation report in Levinau's absence, though the latter had warned him about his going away from Vitsebsk.
Thus, the policeman deprived Mr. Levinau of his legal right to defense, as the latter intended to enter into a service agreement with a lawyer during his trip. He also wanted to give explanations to the police, and study the case before its passing to the court.
Judge Tsyhankova didn't grant even these petitions. On the other hand, she granted the petition for participation of the lawyer, hired by Mr. Levinau, in the trial. As a result, the next hearing was appointed at 9 a.m. on December 17.
The case for a photo shoot "with birds and cells" was instigated at the initiative of head of the department of law enforcement and crime prevention of the regional police department Aliaksandr Kalinouski. He ordered the Chyhunachny DPD to discriminate in the circumstances of the photo shoot. The photos from the photo shoot appeared on the web, which became the main argument of Aliaksandr Rybakou, who drew up the violation reports against the participants of the photo shoot. So far, fines for participation in the action have been issued to the journalists Zmitser Kazakevich, Alena Stsiapanava and Kastus Mardzvintsau, as well as the coordinator of the organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Party Tatsiana Seviarynets and its activist Alena Shabunia. Piatro Biarlinau was sentenced to three days of arrest.