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At least 161 people convicted in criminal political cases in April

2024 2024-05-15T16:32:58+0300 2024-05-15T16:33:15+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

In April, Viasna human rights activists notes that the trend of intensive trials in politically motivated criminal cases continues. According to preliminary data, the number of convicts for the month amounted to at least 161 people, of whom 50 are women, and 111 are men. In relation to one defendant, Aliaksandr Kulinich, the trial did not take place due to his death in a Brest pre-trial detention center a week before the start of the session. At the time of publication, human rights defenders know the details of 44 criminal cases. Viasna reports the specifics of the criminal prosecution for political reasons in April.

Фёдар Шведаў. Фота: Белта
Fiodar Shvedau, April 19

Minsk and Brest regions are leaders in criminal trials

In April, the criminal prosecution for political reasons in different regions looked like this:

  • Minsk — 83 people;
  • Homieĺ region — 10 people;
  • Brest region — 36 people;
  • Homieĺ region — 12 people;
  • Mahilioŭ region — 8 people;
  • Minsk region — 10 people;
  • Viciebsk region — two people.

Persecution for participation in protests in 2020

The vast majority of the criminal cases is represented by the trials under Article 342 of the Criminal Code. Of the 161 people prosecuted in April, 102 were charged with a crime of "active participation in group actions that grossly violate public order."

The law enforcement practice of using this article to prosecute participants in spontaneous meetings in 2020 is largely determined by regional conventions. In the vast majority of cases in Minsk, trials end with people being sentenced to home confinement. A number of group trials in Brest and Baranavičy related to spontaneous peaceful gatherings in these cities in August 2020 ended in the vast majority with imprisonment for the defendants in the cases.

Trials in absentia

In April, many sentences were passed as part of the special proceedings procedure. Under Article 342 of the Criminal Code, eight people were sentenced in absentia to two years of imprisonment: Volha and Yauhen Prudnikau, Anatol Astrouski, Viktar Puzan, Aliaksandr Terliuk, Vital Pakhomchyk, Iryna Staloka, and Henadz Hutar. The Minsk Regional Court considered a case of the same category against Ihar Parunkevich, accused of "inciting other social hatred," "facilitating extremist activities," "violence against a police officer", and "insulting Lukashenka."

Repression of families

Throughout April, the practice of prosecuting entire families or groups of relatives for participating in peaceful protests continued. Under Article 342 of the Criminal Code, Dzianis and Volha Krauchanka, Usevalad and Katsiaryna Ihnatsieva were prosecuted. In Baranavičy, the family of Krystsina Dydyshka-Charkashyna and Ivan Dydyshka have been punished with a year of imprisonment suspended until their child turns three years old and two years of imprisonment, respectively.

The Court of the Frunzenski District of Minsk heard cases under Article 342 of the Criminal Code against Uladzislau Nazdryn and Hrazhyna Bykava-Nazdryna, as well as Uladzislau and Iryna Tamasheuski. The case against Dziyana and Siarhei Danchanka was heard in the Leninski District Court of Minsk, and Anzhalika and Dzianis Lahun, Aliaksandr and Aliaksandra Yurevich's cases were heard in the Central District Court of Minsk.

Since the end of March, the Minsk City Court has also heard cases against Aliaksandr Katovich, accused of "inciting other social hatred," "participating in the activities of an extremist formation," "slandering and insulting Lukashenka," and Larysa Katovich, who was tried under the article on "promoting extremist activities."

Repeated repression

An extremely negative trend of repeated and subsequent conviction of citizens who were previously subjected to repression for political reasons persists. Earlier, Alena Barysiuk, a native of Minsk, who was sentenced to one and a half years of home confinement and a large fine in Ivacevičy, was tried in the Peršamajski District Court of Minsk under articles on "insulting Lukashenka and a representative of the government."

Eduard Veramchuk, convicted in May last year by the Court of the Kobryn District under articles on "insulting Lukashenka and a representative of the government," was prosecuted in the Court of the Maskoŭski District of Brest under the article on "insulting a representative of the government." 

From the general trend of repeated and subsequent conviction of citizens for political reasons, the case of political prisoner Aliaksandr Zhuk stands out. After serving a sentence of one and a half years of restriction of liberty with referral to the open-type correctional facility in the "round dance case", Aliaksandr was sentenced to two and a half years of imprisonment for participating in a spontaneous protest action in Brest on the night of August 10–11, 2020, that had taken place a month before the events that led to his initial persecution.

Special confiscation 

The criminal prosecution for political reasons still retains a distinctive feature in the form of sentences to representatives of civil society. The Minsk City Court sentenced Anastasiya Miatsiash to two years of imprisonment and a fine of 500 basic units (5,630 euros) for "conducting language consultations, translating, correcting, editing texts that were later used by members of the extremist formation BELSAT."

It should be noted that the authorities, in addition to their attitude to the "extremist elements" of crimes, use special confiscation: in particular, 102,415 rubles 12 kopecks (28,830 euros) were collected from Anastasiya Miatsiash as income allegedly obtained by criminal means. A similar tool was used in relation to Ihar Karnei, who was persecuted a month earlier.

Unprecedented trial for "crimes against the peace and security of mankind"

For the third month, a trial has been underway in the Hrodna Regional Court against Vadzim Patsenka and Aliaksei Kulikou, who are accused of "an act of international terrorism", "inciting other social hatred", "an act of terrorism", "agent activity", and "treason to the state". This case stands out from other politically motivated cases by the fact that for the first time the defendants are charged with "crimes against the peace and security of mankind", for which an exceptional punishment is provided: the death penalty.

At the same time, it should be noted that the generic object of the crime under Article 126 of the Criminal Code is "peace between states and peoples". The place of commission of the crime under Article 126 of the Criminal Code is the territory of a foreign state or the territory of a diplomatic mission or consular office of a foreign state located on the territory of the Republic of Belarus.

For more than a year, the comprehensive information about the specific actions that were committed by the accused in order to try them under Part 3 of Article 126 of the Criminal Code has not been provided. According to state media, Kulikou took photos of two oil depots, a military unit, and the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Hrodna.

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