Convicts in Vitsebsk photo session case appeal fines
Six residents of Vitsebsk, who were found guilty of participating in an unsanctioned picket for appearing in a photo on the background of a graffiti, are asking the Regional Court to overturn the penalties previously imposed on them. They also ask to cancel the proceedings opened over lack of official permission to be photographed in a public place.
Five journalists and civil society activists, who were fined for illegal picketing, as well as a resident of Vitsebsk, Piotr Biarlinau, a passer-by, who was sentenced to three days of arrest, appealed to the Regional Court.
Human rights activist Pavel Levinau, who helped in the preparation of complaints, says this step is necessary:
“If you do not make an attempt to appeal the ruling of the District Court, this automatically means that participants in the photo session plead guilty of violating the law. And none of the participants agrees with that, since a photo session is not a “mass event”. The journalists and the activists were accused of this – of violating the law on mass events: they supposedly did not apply for being photographed to the district administration. What we have is a paradoxical situation, which is not found in any other Belarusian city: it turns out that it is prohibited to be photographed in Vitsebsk without the permission of the district authorities. But in this case, the offender is everyone who comes to the street – during a wedding, excursion or simply wishing to have a souvenir. In their appeals, the participants of the photo session emphasize that they were only photographed. And their actions did not create problems for national security, did not interfere with public order not threatened the health or morals of the society, did not violate the rights and freedoms of others.”
The date of consideration of appeals by the Regional Court has not yet been appointed. As for Pavel Levinau himself, the consideration of his case in the Chyhunachny District Court has not yet been completed. Judge Alena Tsyhankova put off the trial of the human rights defender till December 17.
The idea of the photo session was to continue the topic raised by an unknown graffiti artist: he painted a paper bird leaving a cage... The participants were also holding paper birds and cages. Now they are facing administrative charges for staging an unsanctioned rally. Head of the department of prevention and protection of law and order of the Chyhunachny District Police Department of Vitsebsk Aliaksandr Rybakout charged the activists with “unauthorized picketing”. He argued that the participants in the photo session “expressed their personal and public interests” without permission. He admitted that the charged were based on materials received from the regional police department. They were sent by deputy head of the law enforcement and prevention department Aliaksandr Kalinouski, who spotted them while “monitoring the Internet”. In his opinion, the actions of people in the pictures had “signs of an offense”.
The Chyhunachny District Court of Vitsebsk fined journalists Alena Stsiapanava (Judge Dzianis Hubanau), Dzmitry Kazakevich and Kanstantsin Mardzvintsau (Judge Alena Tsyhankova) and civil society activists Alena Shabunia (Judge Dzianis Hubanau) and Tatsiana Seviarynets (Judge Alena Tsyhankova). Coordinator of the organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Tatsiana Seviarynets received the biggest fine, 25 basic units. Piotr Biarlinau, who joined the session with unfamiliar people, was sentenced to three days of arrest (Judge Alena Tsyhankova). Moreover, he was detained on the street a few days after the photo session and placed in a temporary detention facility, where he stayed until the trial – just three days later he was convicted of allegedly participating in an unsanctioned rally.