Prosecutor appeals the verdict in Viasna case
The prosecutor appealed the verdict of the Lieninski District Court of Minsk of March 3, which sentenced the three political prisoners of human rights center Viasna to 7 to 10 years in a colony, Valiantsin Stefanovic, who was sentenced to nine years in prison, wrote in a letter from jail. The date when the appeal will be heard is not known yet.
“I think that our terms were not to their liking, they consider them too lenient,” writes Stefanovic.
To recap, the prosecutor Aliaksandr Karol asked for two more years of imprisonment and higher fines than the judge imposed. On March 3, Judge Maryna Zapasnik sentenced Viasna founder and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski to 10 years of imprisonment, Viasna deputy chair and vice-president of FIDH Valiantsin Stefanovic received 9 years, Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections campaign coordinator Uladzimir Labkovich was sentenced to 7 years, and human rights defender Zmitser Salauyou who was tried in absentia got an 8-years verdict. They were found guilty of “smuggling by an organized group” under Part 4 Article 228 of the Criminal Code and “financing” of 2020 protests under Part 2 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code. Stefanovic, Labkovich, and Salauyou were also fined 111,000 Belarusian rubles (approx. $41,300), and only the chairman of Viasna was fined 185,000 rubles (approx. $69,000) as the prosecutor requested. The court also ordered to collect from the defendants 752,438 rubles 62 kopecks (almost $297,650), which they had allegedly “obtained by criminal means” through “smuggling by an organized criminal group”. It was this amount that appeared in the charges under Part 4 of Article 228 of the Criminal Code.
During the pronouncement of the verdict, the human rights defenders stayed handcuffed with their arms twisted behind their backs. All of them pleaded not guilty.
Ales Bialiatski said about the charges under part 2 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code:
“It is immoral and inhumane to criminalize aid to political repression victims, which suddenly occurred after May 2020. Part 2 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code has not changed, it has been like that for many years. Humanitarian aid to affected people has suddenly been interpreted under this article since May 2020. So this criminalization is arbitrary.
It is in the tradition of the Belarusian people to help people in need. But if this is how the Criminal Code is interpreted and applied against such charity support to one another, it is anti-human.Before May 2020, for some reason such aid was possible, but after May it was prohibited.”
Human rights defenders have been jailed since July 14, 2021.