Journalist Aksana Kolb sentenced to 2.5 years of freedom restriction
Today, on June 15, Aksana Kolb, a journalist, and editor-in-chief of the Novy Chas newspaper was sentenced in the Centraĺny District Court of Minsk. Judge Dzmitryi Karsiuk found her guilty of participation in actions that grossly violate public order under Part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code and sentenced her to 2.5 years of restricted freedom in an open-type correctional facility for her participation in one of the rallies in August in 2020. After almost two months of pre-trial detention, Aksana was released in the courtroom awaiting the commencement of the sentence.
Aksana's trial began on June 7. She was charged under Part 1 Article 342 of the Criminal Code for her participation in the rally on August 16, 2020. She pleaded guilty in full. Minsktrans sued her for 5,980 rubles for "blocking the roads". Oksana pleaded partially guilty. she claimed that she had been on the roadway for only a few minutes.
The examination of written evidence at the request of the prosecutor was held in closed session. After the break, the prosecutor requested for her the political prisoner 2 years and 6 months of freedom restriction in an open-type penitentiary. Judge Dzmitryi Karsiuk sustained the prosecutor’s request. The journalist refused to give the last word.
On April 20, 2022, a police squad armed with shields and sledgehammers raided Aksana Kolb’s apartment. They said that they were taking her to the Investigative Committee for interrogation. On April 22, it became known that she was charged under part 342 of article 1 of the Criminal Code (Organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order or active participation in them). Aksana was transferred to Minsk pre-trial detention center No. 1, where she was held until trial.
Novy Chas has been published in the Belarusian language since 2002. It was among the few non-state newspapers that got into prisons. It used to be available for subscription, but in 2021 the newspaper was excluded from the system of official distribution and the editorial office started to send the newspaper directly in envelopes, including to political prisoners in places of detention. In August 2021, Novy Chas print edition was discontinued as printing houses refused to print it. In autumn 2021, Novy Chas website was blocked in Belarus as well. Since then the journalists have been publishing their materials on the mirror of the website and on social networks.
Aksana Kolb had been detained earlier and interrogated by the Investigative Committee. She decided to stay in Belarus and continue her work. Novy Chas authors Dzianis Ivashyn and Mikalai Dziadok are political prisoners and remain behind bars.