Investigative Committee violates presumption of innocence in ‘graffiti case’
The website of the Investigative Committee published on August 22 information about the accused and suspects in so-called ‘graffiti case’, which violates the presumption of innocence of the detainees.
“During the criminal investigation, including as a result of an examination of computer equipment seized during the searches, evidence was found of the use and dissemination in the Internet by persons involved in the criminal case as suspects and defendants of extremist materials that constitute propaganda of aggressive, violent acts aimed at law enforcement bodies, calls encouraging citizens to commit unlawful acts, riots; insults and arrogant names of people by their ethnic affiliation. Moreover, the materials disseminated through the Internet contain Nazi symbols and merchandise, statements insulting the veterans of the Great Patriotic War. According to the conclusions of the Republican Expert Commission of the Ministry of Information of the Republic of Belarus, the materials disseminated through the Internet contain signs of extremism and have been found extremist by a decision of the Court of the Centraĺny district of Minsk,” said the press release.
At the same time, it is not clear whose computer equipment stored the extremist materials, when the searched and seizures took place in five apartments (including the apartments of the detainees’ parents), and which decision to the Centraĺny District Court is cited by the Investigative Committee, when none of the defendants is actually aware of such decisions.
In addition, the Investigative Committee said that “investigations are being conducted, aimed at checking the facts of activity of the group containing signs of incitement to racial, national or religious enmity or discord, the final conclusion on which will be made after the findings of a psycho-linguistic examination”.
Yaraslau Ulyanenkau, who was named a suspect in the case and has been released on bail, has not read or signed the decision on the appointment of a psycho-linguistic examination. He has already sent a request to the head of the investigative group, A. Ahafonau, asking for access to the document, if the examination was appointed in the course of the preliminary investigation of the criminal case.
Among other things, the Investigative Committee gives incorrect assessment of the defendants, noting that some of them have been brought to administrative responsibility, have lately changed their names, and two of them have moved to Minsk and lived in a rented apartment, which is totally irrelevant to the case. The confiscated items – an air gun, balaklavas, and stickers – are not prohibited by the legislation of Belarus, and their use in committing criminal acts has not been proven. However, the style of the message published by the Investigative Committee deliberately creates a negative image of the young men, violating their presumption of innocence.
The mother of one of the detainees, Maksim Piakarski, has petitioned President Aliaksandr Lukashenka asking him to pardon the three guys without charging them.
On August 11, five persons were violently detained 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.
On August 20, the Investigative Committee formally charged Maksim Piakarski and Vadzim Zharomski under Part 2, Art. 339 of the Criminal Code, "hooliganism committed by a group of persons." Both are in custody in Minsk pre-trial jail No. 1.
The Human Rights Center "Viasna" has released a statement about the situation, requesting the immediate release of Maksim Piakarski and Vadzim Zharomski, as well as Viachaslau Kasinerau, who is currently in hospital with a double fracture of the jaw inflicted as a result of detention by the Interior Ministry officers.