Picks of the week
After the relatively good news of over a dozen journalists being cleared of criminal charges in a four-month long investigation known as the “BelTA case”, the media reported on November 30 that criminal charges were dropped against Iryna Leushyna, chief editor of the BelaPAN news agency.
As a result, tut.by editor-in-chief Maryna Zolatava is the only person still charged in the case. She is accused under part 2 of Article 425 of the Criminal Code (official inaction) and is facing a punishment ranging between a heavy fine and 5 years in prison.
Former political prisoner and Amnesty International’s prisoner of conscience Dzmitry Paliyenka is expected to stand new trial on charges of “defiance of police authority” (Art. 23.4 of the Administrative Code). As a result, he may be sentenced to 25 days of detention. The charges were brought after the activist refused to enroll at a compulsory police course assigned to him after his release last month.
Paliyenka has to attend daily lectures at the police department as long as he is not officially employed.
On November 26, police in Minsk arrested a priest of the Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, Father Vikiencij (Viktar Kavalkou), for gathering alms in a residential building. A disabled person, the priest was accused of violating public order and had to spend overnight in detention.
The law does not prohibit pre-trial detention of people with disabilities, but directly bans sentencing them to terms in jail on administrative charges, which, according to human rights defenders, infringes on the basic rights of this category of people.
“Lawmakers have excluded administrative detention from the list of possible penalties because when in detention these people will feel additional pain due to a disability. But what about being detained for more than three hours, which is essentially identical to a term in jail? Obviously, it will cause the same suffering,” Viasna’s expert Pavel Sapelka says.