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At least 145 people were tried in criminal political cases in May

2024 2024-06-14T16:25:21+0300 2024-06-14T16:25:21+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

During May, human rights defenders of Viasna Human Rights Center noted the continuation of mass political repression in criminal cases. According to Viasna, at least 145 people were convicted in May, of which 31 are women and 114 are men. In addition, at least six families were convicted last month. At the time of publication, human rights defenders know the details of 39 criminal cases. Viasna traditionally reports the specifics of the criminal prosecution last month.

СИЗО КГБ. Скриншот с пропагандистского фильма
KGB pre-trial detention centre. Screenshot from a propaganda film

Minsk and Brest regions are leaders in criminal trials

The prosecution in politically motivated criminal cases in different regions in May looked as follows:

  • Minsk — 76 people;
  • Brest region — 34 people;
  • Hrodna region — 12 people;
  • Homieĺ region — 11 people;
  • Minsk region — 8 people;
  • Mahilioŭ region — 2 people;
  • Viciebsk region — 2 people.

Trials in absentia

In May, the trend of intensive use of the special proceedings by the judicial system in relation to political emigrants was gaining momentum. The month was marked by the beginning of the most massive trial in absentia against "the analysts of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya" and advisers to democratic leader Franak Viachorka.

In May, the Hlybokaje District Court heard a case against Liudmila Bareika under the article on "libel" as part of the special proceedings. As part of the same procedure, the Minsk City Court sentenced the executive secretary of the Coordinating Council, Ivan Krautsou, to 11 years under articles on "incitement to hatred", "conspiracy to seize power by unconstitutional means", and "creation of an extremist formation or participation in it."

The trial of Aliaksandr Kulinich, who died in custody

With regard to Aliaksandr Kulinich, who died a week before the start of his trial, a court hearing was held in the court of the Maskoŭski District of Brest on May 30 and 31. The lawyer of Viasna believes that the hearing ended with termination of proceedings against the deceased.

At least six couples were convicted of protesting

The Belarusian authorities continue to persecute entire families or groups of relatives. In May, human rights activists recorded at least six such pairs. Frunzenski District Court of Minsk sentenced Ruslan Badamshyn to three years of home confinement under Article 342. The same case was considered by the court of Frunzenski District Court of Minsk with an interval of three weeks in relation to Tatsiana Badamshyna.

Pavel and Uladzimir Dzhezhorau were sentenced by Savecki District Court of Minsk to three years of restriction of liberty without being sent to an open-type correctional institution under Article 342 of the Criminal Code. Kastryčnicki District Court of Hrodna sentenced Artsiom and Aksana Staneuski to one and a half years of an open-type correctional institution and home confinement, respectively, under the article on participation in group actions grossly violating public order. The case against Aksana and Andrei Audziaichuk, accused under Article 342, was heard in the Dziarzhynsk District Court. Maskoŭski District Court of Minsk heard a case under the same article against Aliaksei and Inha Veraitsin.

Homieĺ Regional Court has been hearing the case against Aliaksei Charnavusau for several months; the man is accused of "facilitating extremist activities", "creating an extremist formation or participating in it", and "illegal actions against property under inventory or arrest." The same court heard the case against Ihar Charnavusau, who was first tried as part of a group of three defendants, and then his charges were brought forward in a separate proceeding; the man was tried under articles on "incitement to hatred", "slander", and "insulting Lukashenka".

Repeated trials

Repeated and subsequent criminal prosecution of citizens for political reasons keeps occurring on a monthly basis. In May, an extremely negative trend became noticeable: victims of political persecution are convicted under Article 411 of the Criminal Code, having been convicted under the same article earlier. Ivan Viarbitski and Siarhei Yafimau were repeatedly prosecuted in the Barysaŭ District Court under Article 411 of the Criminal Code.

Belarusian political prisoners in high-security prisons: pressure intensifies

Viasna reports how the administration of the colonies punishes political prisoners and which of the political prisoners are recognized as "malicious violators of the order." 

Khojniki District Court heard the case against Raisa Matveichuk under Article 369 of the Criminal Code. Yauhen Rudziak's case was heard in Pružany District Court under articles on "insulting Lukashenka and a representative of the government." Most recently, Aliaksandra Kasko, who was sentenced to a huge term, was tried in the Leninski District Court of Hrodna under articles on "insulting a representative of the government and a judge." The lengthy trial against Barys Vitko ended with the Brest Regional Court imposing a sentence of seven years and three months of imprisonment with a fine of 12,000 roubles (more than 3,400 euros) under articles on "incitement to hatred", "slander", "calls for sanctions", "slander against Lukashenka", and "insulting Lukashenka and a representative of the authorities." Krupki District Court heard a case against Vasil Dzemidovich under articles on "insulting a representative of the government and a judge"; this is the eighth criminal case for the political prisoner.

Prosecution for "actions aimed at harming the national security of Belarus"

It is necessary to highlight the emerging trend: law enforcement agencies are increasingly using Article 32 of the Criminal Code "crimes against the State" as an instrument of repression. This is due to the fact that this category of crimes is subject only to the regional and Minsk city courts.

During May, there was a sharp increase in cases where the defendants are tried under Part 3 of Article 361 of the Criminal Code (calls for restrictive measures (sanctions), other actions aimed at harming the national security of the Republic of Belarus).

It was Part 3 of Article 361 of the Criminal Code that was widely used in May, solely due to the fact that it refers to committing actions using the media or the Internet: that is, any public expression of opinion. Under this part of the article, there is only one type of the main type of punishment: imprisonment for a period of four to twelve years.

Yauhen Pelakhaty and Barys Vitko were tried in Brest Regional Court under Part 3 of Article 361 of the Criminal Code in May, while the Minsk City Court heard cases against Andrei Mireichyk, Uladzimir Balabanovich, Uladzimir Nikitsin, Natallia Kruk, Katsiaryna Shablinskaya-Ivanova, Dzmitry Tsikunou, Yury Alkhovik, Vadzim Rushkevich, Anton Kazelski, and Andrei Martyshou. In addition, this article is also used as part of the special proceedings against Franak Viachorka, and a number of defendants in the case of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya analysts are convicted under it.

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