Investigative Committee charges suspects in ‘graffiti case’
The Investigative Committee has officially charged youth activists Maksim Piakarski and Vadzim Zharomski under Part 2, Art. 339 of the Criminal Code, “hooliganism committed by a group of persons”, after they were detained for inscribing graffiti and smearing a billboard in Minsk.
It is yet unknown whether the investigators charged Viachaslau Kasinerau, who is still in hospital after being beaten by policemen. Another detainee in the case, Yaraslau Ulyianenkau, remains in the status of a suspect.
Three decisions to institute criminal proceedings were combined into a single criminal case. Meanwhile, one of the cases initially opened under Art. 341 of the Criminal Code, “desecration of facilities and damage to property”, an episode related to a painting on a bigboard, was eventually reclassified under Part 2, Art. 339 of the Criminal Code.
The activists face restriction of freedom for up to three years, or imprisonment for a period of one to six years.
The authorities are yet to decide if Maksim Piakarski and Vadzim Zharomski can be released on bail during the investigation.
As earlier stressed by Pavel Sapelka, lawyer of the Human Rights Center "Viasna", drawing pictures on the wall cannot be regarded as hooliganism, since these actions are not related to gross violation of public order or sheer disrespect for society.
“I can safely say that the inscription and the images do not violate public order and roughly express explicit disrespect for society: they have no offensive content, tabooed expressions and definitions. Therefore, further discussion regarding the damage of property does not make sense.
The motive of inscribing such inscriptions under these circumstances cannot be of hooliganism-related nature, being merely a means of expression. The inscription could have been found vandalistic if it were left, for example, on a monument that has real artistic value.
The Constitution of Belarus and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights obliges the state to respect the right to freedom of expression, if it is peaceful in nature, does not infringe on state security or public safety and morality.
Of course, this inscription can be frowned at, for example, by the owner of the building, and he, not sharing the opinion of the author, wants to remove the sign and suffers material losses. In this case, of course, the author, i.e. the artist, should bear civil liability, and the court can recover compensation for damages.”
On August 11, law enforcement officers detained five youth activists (Maksim Piakarski, Vadzim Zharomski, Viachaslau Kasinerau, Yaraslau Ulyianenkau and a citizen of the Russian Federation Pavel (last name unknown) on suspicion of involvement in three episodes: inscribing graffiti “Belarus Must Be Belarusian” and “Revolution of Consciousness: It Is Near At Hand”, as well as smearing a billboard with the image of the police officers.
The Human Rights Center "Viasna" released a statement about the situation, demanding the immediate release of Viachaslau Kasinerau, Maksim Piakarski and Vadzim Zharomski.