Activists on Trial for Remembrance Action (Updated)
On January 19, the Maskouski district court of Minsk heard the case of Ales Makajeu. The activist was accused of violating art. 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Violations by taking part in the procession on November 24, 2015 dedicated to the referendum of 1996 and remembering the politicians abducted in Minsk. Ales Makajeu pleaded non-guilty and argued that he exercised his constitutional right of peaceful assmembly.
Judge Aliaksandr Petrash dismissed the argument and fined the journalist to 45 basic amounts (9 million 450 thousand rubles).
The trial over Maxim Viniarski started in the afternoon. He challenged the judge, referring to the earlier decision of the judge in the case of Ales Makajeu. Maxim Viniarski admitted he had been at the procession on November 24, but he did not shout slogans and did not carry banners. He pleaded non-guilty. The judge sentenced him to a fine of 50 basic amounts.
Website palitviazni.info took comments from Maxim Viniarski, an activist of the European Belarus campaign.
“This is not the first time I come across things like that,” says the activist. “Here I can only add that the papers were written so carelessly that the judge sent them twice for completion to the Central district police department. They wrote in their reports what had not happened at all. For example, they took my photo from the website of Nasha Niva and said it had been made by operative photographers. But they did not even wipe out the logo of the newspaper in the photo. In the last variant of the report, I was charged with unsanctioned picketing (which meant that I put a candle light on the steps of the Central Electoral Committee). But, the photo shows the moment when we walk with the light along Independence Avenue.
What did you say in defense?
In insisted that a person has the right of peaceful assembly guaranteed by the Constitution. Si I admitted my participation in the event. I think I have the right, although in fact peaceful mass actions are forbidden, they are hardly ever allowed. But a person can speak out one’s views. The judge does not think so. And this seems to me violence over justice.
Before that, we’d been fined for 14 million rubles…
Yes, I appealed against it, though the outcome I predictable. Appeals are usually rejected, but judges should be bothered. So, I will appeal against this second fine, too.
Earlier, activists were arrested, now they are fined. How would you estimate this new tactics of the authorities?
It seems the judges were simply forbidden to sentence to arrests. But, objectively, there is no difference – an arrest or a fine. Sooner or later, the number of the fines will outweigh, and judges can get back to the earlier practice. Because, pardon me, who can pay fines that large?
You are one of the leaders among activists in terms of days spent in jail.
Yes, according to my estimates, in total I’ve spent over 310 days under arrest.