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Nearly 100 days in prison: Husband and wife convicted for seventh time over “extremist content” in private messages

2021 2021-10-12T13:55:56+0300 2021-10-12T13:55:57+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Anastasiya Krupenich-Kandratsiyeva and Siarhei Krupenich

Anastasiya Krupenich-Kandratsiyeva and Siarhei Krupenich

On October 11, Siarhei Krupenich and Anastasiya Krupenich-Kandratsiyeva, a young couple in Minsk, were sentenced to 15 and 14 days of “administrative imprisonment” for exchanging “extremist content” in a private conversation on the Telegram messaging app. The Lieninski District Court of Minsk found them guilty under Art. 19.11 of the Administrative Code (distribution of information products containing calls to extremist activities or promoting such activities). This was their seventh consecutive trials for the same offense, for which they will spend more than three months behind bars.

This summer, a 27-year-old teacher at a Minsk high school, Anastasiya, and her husband, programmer Siarhei, returned to Belarus after spending several months in Poland. On July 15, the wife was summoned to a district police department, where the officers unlocked the screen of her smartphone. Siarhei was detained the same day and their apartment was searched. After the arrest, Anastasiya was forced to appear in a video confession later shared by a pro-government Telegram channel. Ryhor Azaronak, a central figure in Lukashenka’s system of propaganda, argued that the woman was arrested for leaking the personal data of police officers’ children to an “extremist channel”.

However, it was later revealed that the couple simply exchanged reposts from several protest accounts in their private chat. For this, they faced three offense reports each.

The couple were released on August 25, after spending 41 days in detention, Anastasiya – in Baranavičy and Siarhei – in the infamous detention center in Akrestsin Street. When they returned home, the police were waiting for them to ask to come to a police department the next morning and “sign some documents”. When they arrived there the following day, the two faced new charges under Art. 19.11 of the Administrative Code and were eventually sentenced to 15 more days in prison.

During a new trial on September 23, Anastasiya said that she wasn’t aware that the Belarus Golovnogo Mozga channel was “extremist” and that she was not allowed to send reposts from the channel in private messages to her husband. As a result, however, she was again arrested for 13 days.

Siarhei promised never to read Telegram channels again, but judge Tatsiana Shotsik sentenced the man to 13 days in jail.

According to one of police reports, “Anastasiya disseminated extremist content on June 21, sending a message from the Telegram channel “Belarus Golovnogo Mozga” to her husband.” The message dealt with the reduction of staff in the Interior Ministry.

Without a shower or outdoor time

Siarhei and Anastasiya are currently held in Akrestsin Street. The woman’s former cellmate told Viasna that the prisoner had to live in inhumane conditions. She had to share a two-bunk cell with up to 12 people. Anastasiya never received any of the packages her family sent her and had to sleep on a bunk without a mattress. Anastasiya and her cellmates were not allowed to take a shower, although there were homeless women with lice in the cell. The woman was not taken out for outdoor time either.

According to the couple’s former cellmates, both contracted the coronavirus while in detention and lost weight.

“During cell searches, they sometimes could see each other’s eyes through an open food hatch. This is what supported them,” the former prisoner said.