Activists involved in ‘graffiti case’ complain about offensive publication by Investigative Committee
The defendants and suspects in the so-called ‘graffiti case’ have written to the head of the Investigative Committee and the Prosecutor General’s Office to complain about a publication on the website of the Investigative Committee under the title “Investigative Committee continues investigation of criminal case on hooliganism and damage to property in the capital.”
Maksim Piakarski, Vadzim Zharomski, Viachaslau Kasinerau and Yaraslau Ulyianenkau say the publication is a direct violation of the presumption of innocence and the right to defense, as well as an insult to their honor and dignity.
Firstly, the article directly calls the youngsters “hooligans arrested for a series of deliberate daring attacks”, “lawbreakers” and “gangsters” before the consideration of the case by the court, and describes them with only negative qualities. In fact, the spread of such news attempts to convince the public that the guys are guilty of the alleged criminal acts.
Secondly, the publication says that “according to the conclusions of a report by the Republican Expert Commission of the Ministry of Information of the Republic of Belarus, a series of online publications contain signs of extremism, and a decision of Minsk’s Centraĺny District Court has found them extremist.” However, the youth activists know nothing about the examination, as they have not been allowed to see the expert commission’s conclusions and the court decision. Moreover, everyone involved in the case has signed a non-disclosure subscription, and thus they cannot even challenge these allegations in the media.
Thirdly, the said publication says that a traumatic gun was found during a search at the activists’ apartment. At the same time, a photo posted along with the news shows an air pistol, which falls into the category of civilian weapons.
“Thus, the website of the state body provides deliberately false information, which is unacceptable, and violates our rights and discredits the Investigative Committee,” says the complaint.
Fourthly, the article writes about bottles with flammable liquids, “elements of intimidating nature”, stickers and literature covering the activities of anarchist and nationalist movements that were reportedly found during the search. However, the storage of liquids, stickers and literature is not unlawful. The guys think that the negative context of the publication is an attempt to show them as persons inclined to commit unlawful acts.
In addition, the publication criticizes the fact that two of the activists do not come from Minsk and are living in a rented apartment, and that three of them have changed their names. Neither of the facts is illegal. However, the negative context of all these facts raises doubts that the persons involved in the case are law-abiding citizens.
The article also argues that the investigators have examined the personalities of individuals involved in the case, but the publication does not mention a single fact that would create a positive image of the defendants and suspects.
“We consider the publication as an attempt to tarnish us, defendants and suspects, in the eyes of society, predetermine the position of the Court and affect the outcome of the case. The article, which features affirmative conclusions about the guilt of the accused and suspects, is a direct and flagrant violation of the presumption of innocence and the right to defense, it discloses the secret of the investigation and discredits the entire Investigative Committee,” says the complaint.
It is noteworthy that neither the accused nor the suspects in the case are currently involved in any investigation activities. Until now, the investigators have not returned equipment that was seized during the search.
However, the activists say they can still feel pressure on them. In particular, the house Maksim Piakarski in Smarhoń was visited by unknown persons, who left marks of their presence: footprints on the floor and misplaced things.
Yaraslau Ulyianenkau, a suspect in the ‘graffiti case’, is facing fresh criminal charges. At the same time, more than a month ago he reported about an episode of beating during the arrest and search. However, the Investigative Committee has not yet replied to the complaint.
In addition, the Investigative Committee refused to mitigate the charges, although the guys deny the hooligan motive of their actions.
On August 11, law enforcement officers violently 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.