Political prisoner Yury Rubtsou sentenced to two years in penal colony
The Pružany District Court has sentenced political prisoner Yury Rubtsou to two years of imprisonment in a minimum security penal colony on charges of evasion of serving his initial sentence.
Yury Rubtsou, who was serving a sentence in an open-type correctional facility located in special settlement No. 7 in the village of Kuplin, Pružany district, was accused of violating the rules for serving punishment (Art. 415 of the Criminal Code). Before the trial, the political prisoner was held in jail in Baranavičy, where he declared a hunger strike.
The charges stemmed from alleged violations of conditions of serving the sentence provided for by Part 3 of Article 47 of the Criminal Executive Code and the internal rules, which oblige the convicted person to work by the assignment of the detention facility administration. The defendant had declined four jobs, which was viewed as evasion from serving the sentence.
At the beginning of the trial on May 27, Judge Mikalai Repikha made a remark to Yury Rubtsou, who appeared in the courtroom without a shirt. Rubtsou said that he had been brought to the court of Minsk’s Saviecki district and tried without a shirt on, and no one paid attention to the fact then. The judge said that under the rules of etiquette, the defendant had to wear clothes when in the courtroom, or can be removed from the room.
Representative of the prosecution Zaitsau said in his speech that Rubtsou refused to be employed in the jobs offered by the prison administration, for which he received several reprimands and an official warning about criminal responsibility.
Yury Rubtsou referred to Article 47 of the Criminal Executive Code, according to which, he had no right to work under an employment contract, as he had been convicted by a court. Meanwhile, he was forced to sign a contract of employment.
He noted that the prisoners received lower salaries as compared to ordinary citizens. At the same time, the opposition activist said that he was threatened with imprisonment if he did not sign a labor contract. However, he said, the signing of the employment contract is contrary to the Labor Code of Belarus.
The court questioned more than 15 witnesses, both from the administration of the correctional institution and convicts serving their sentence there.
Head of open-type facility No. 7 Lieutenant Colonel Yury Makayeu said that the salary offered to Rubtsou ranged between 4 and 5 million rubles. But he categorically refused to work. Rubtsou refused to sign the order on employment, citing low payment. Testimonies by the rest of the prison staff concerned specific cases when Rubtsou refused job offers.
Most prisoners who appeared at the court as witnesses said that Rubtsou did not refuse to work, but only sought a decent wage, as he referred to a statement of President Lukashenka who promised an average of $ 600.
After a two-hour break, the court heard several other witnesses and proceeded to arguments.
The prosecutor said that Rubtsou’s behavior had signs of a relapse and asked the court to punish him with 2.5 years in prison, as well as to add the remaining term and order a total of 3 years in a penal colony.
Yury Rubtsou’s counsel emphasized the fact that the defendant did not object to employment, but drew attention to the blank fields in the employment contract when signing the document. He also passed a medical examination after receiving a job assignment. Therefore, the prisoner said that the contract was improperly drafted.
The lawyer also asked the court to examine decisions of a number of international human rights organizations, which recognized Yury Rubtsou a political prisoner and asked to voice the statements in court. The prosecutor opposed because “Rubtsou was accused of a crime against justice”.
The lawyer requested an acquittal due to lack of evidence, and in the case of a guilty verdict – to consider arguments by the defense and order the minimum term.
In his last word, Yury Rubtsou said that inmates of open-type correctional facilities are forced to sign employment agreements in order to show that there is no forced labor in Belarus. And in fact, there is forced labor, which is contrary to the Constitution, said the defendant.
The political prisoner said that he considered himself not guilty, and that had always lived according to the law.