Two more political prisoners jailed over post-election rally in Žlobin

2021 2021-08-06T16:24:15+0300 2021-08-06T16:25:43+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Žlobin District Court

Žlobin District Court

Political prisoners Mikalai Isayenka and Piotr Kanstantsinau were sentenced today by the Žlobin District Court to 18 and 24 months in prison on charges of “organizing or active participation in group actions that gravely breach public order” (Part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code).

The charges stem from a protest held on election night, August 9, 2020. The case was considered by judge Mikalai Serhiayevich. Both defendants were in custody pending trial.

Isayenka pleaded partially guilty, only admitting that he was among the people who gathered in central Žlobin. Kanstantsinau pleaded not guilty.

During the one-day trial, the court was expected to examine eighteen witnesses: police officers, employees of the city bus operator and other people. Fourteen of them were interrogated, four did not appear.

None of the eight employees of the Žlobin bus depot confirmed that the protesters obstructed traffic on election night. Moreover, the witnesses said that the traffic was blocked by road police and the buses had to be rerouted because of the police cordons. There were no complaints from passengers and no material damage to the operator.

Another witness, a paramedic, mistook one defendant for the other. During the hearing, when a low-quality video from the scene was played, she allegedly recognized Mikalai Isayenka in the footage, but started describing Piotr Kanstantsinau, instead, naming his physical characteristics, believing that it was Isayenka.

According to the case file, Kanstantsinau came to the square at 8:40 pm and Isayenka at 9:20. By that time, the traffic had already been blocked. Therefore, their presence could not physically affect traffic. Kanstantsinau reiterated in court that he was standing near a lamppost, rather than on the road. However, prosecutor Maryna Panchyk insisted in her speech that both men were in the first rows of protesters, chanting slogans loudly and clapping their hands, whistling and shouting, disturbing public order.

Ignoring the positive characteristics, the lack of previous convictions in both, as well as the fact that Isayenka cares for a disabled mother and a disabled brother in a wheelchair, the judge sided with the prosecutor and ordered prison terms for both political prisoners.