Court orders lengthy prison terms in “Army Together With the People” trial
The Minsk Regional Court has sentenced five persons to various terms of imprisonment over their role in running a Telegram channel entitled “Army Together With the People”. The convicts include four political prisoners.
Siarhei Sparysh, an activist of the Narodnaya Hramada party, was sentenced to 6 years in a medium-security penal colony.
Antanina Kanavalava, a member of Siarhei Tsikhanouski’s “Country for Living” initiative, was sentenced to five and a half years in a general-security penal colony.
Another defendant in the trial, blogger Yauhen Pryvalau was sentenced to four and a half years in a medium-security penal colony. Pryvalau was the only defendant who was not detained before the trial.
The activists were found guilty of preparing to take part in mass riots, of preparing riots, and Sparysh was also convicted of obstructing the work of the Central Election Commission.
According to the investigation, back in 2019, Siarhei Tsikhanoгski, Mikalai Statkevich and Pavel Seviarynets planned to use “a riotous mob” to commit “violence, arson, destruction of property, and armed resistance to the authorities.” To do this, they and others used a number of Telegram and YouTube channels, including the Telegram account “Army Together With the People.”
The prosecutor repeated several times that the means of committing the crime were mobile phones and computers.
The Telegram channel allegedly published information containing a “false assessment of the illegitimacy of the performance of official and public duties by the authorities, illegal calls to disobey and resist them,” as well as calls to subscribe to the channel, references to educational literature, for example Gene Sharp’s book on peaceful and nonviolent resistance, recommendations to use Telegram for communication (the prosecution viewed this as proof of conspiracy), information on ways of psychological disobedience to the authorities, recommendations on how to avoid persecution, etc.
The prosecutor drew special attention to the fact that the information in the Telegram channel was meant for former and current security officers. In particular, current officers were urged to disobey orders.
The prosecutor said that the defendants were preparing for riots, but were unable to fulfill their criminal intent, as Sparysh and other people involved in the case were detained on June 25. Therefore, they were all accused of preparing to participate in riots. The charge, however, provides for the same responsibility as for a completed crime: from 3 to 8 years in prison.
According to the investigation, Siarhei Sparysh shared negative comments on Lidziya Yarmoshyna, chair of the Central Election Committee, including threats and mockery. The law enforcement officers viewed this as pressure on and interference with the work of the CEC head and linked the charge to Siarhei Tsikhanouski’s plans to hold an election picket near the official’s house (which was never implemented).