Refusal to investigate torture and six years in prison for Telegram messages
The Hrodna Regional Court has considered a case under several criminal articles against 33-year-old Valiantsin Panasik.
The case was considered by Judge Valery Ramanouski and two lay judges, and the state prosecution was supported by Prosecutor Valery Varantsou.
Valiantsin Panasik was detained on August 5, 2021. He was accused of committing three criminal offenses – under Part 1 of Art. 293 (Mass Riots), Part 1 of Art. 130 (Incitement to racial, national, religious or other social hatred or enmity) and Part 1 of Art. 342 (Organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order, or active participation in them).
The reason for these criminal cases was Panasik's messages published in a Telegram channel called “Grodno 97%”.
The accused did not admit his guilt, as well as refused to testify.
In the interrogation report of August 5, the same date he was detained, the accused told the investigator about the use of violence against him:
“I would like to point out that during the search of my apartment, the officers who conducted the search insulted me. [They] called me a prison bitch, fagot, homo, and said ‘go away to Poland’. Also, to get the password from my cell phone, two police officers [...] punched me in the face. They gave me at least four blows with their hands, and one blow to my right eye with a fist. [...] The officers who hit my face were unknown to me, I did not remember them. When I was lying on the floor, the officer with a machine gun deliberately stepped on my right thumb, he then gradually pressed harder. I do not know the identity of the officer. I think there was no reason to use force and humiliate me. I ask for an investigation into the use of force against me and for a forensic medical examination of my injuries. One of the officers who searched my place had a body worn camera, which could be on and record the use of violence against me."
The Investigative Committee refused to initiate a criminal case on the fact of Valiancin Panasik's appeal about his ill-treatment.
The lawyer of Valiantsin Panasik during the debate drew attention to the fact that Article 130 of the Criminal Code provides for the most dangerous crimes against peace and security of mankind. In particular, those that can bring the world to the brink of destruction, including by planning and preparation of war and genocide. According to the defense of Valiantsin Panasik, the charges under Art. 130 do not stand up to any criticism and have not been confirmed. Thus, there is no corpus delicti under it.
“My client did not infringe upon such foundations as peace and security of all mankind by committing the actions specified in the charge brought against him," the lawyer said. “The social group ‘police officers’ does not comply with the norms protected by Part 1 of Article 130 of the Criminal Code. Consequently, the actions of my client do not fall under their actions. "
The lawyer also drew attention to the fact that no evidence had been presented that there were mass riots in Hrodna. He insisted that there was no plan to prepare for the riots in Panasik's messages:
“These messages did not contain any specific instructions. There is no evidence that the accused had a clear intent to commit the crime. There is also no evidence that any group was formed and that actions were taken to induce the group to organize group actions. Nor is there evidence that anyone responded to Panasik's messages and expressed a willingness to do something like that. There may be evidence of other offenses in the actions of the accused, but they do not constitute the crimes he is charged with,” the lawyer concluded.
On January 5, 2022, the court sentenced Valiantsin Panasik to six years of imprisonment in a medium-security penal colony.