Valiantsin Stefanovich: “All this show cannot be called justice”
Valiantsin Stefanovich, lawyer of the Human Rights Center Viasna, observed the consideration of a number of administrative cases against the protesters detained during the 22 June Minsk silent rally. In particular, he attended the hearings at Minsk Savetski District Court presided by Judge Ms. Aksana Reliava.
Having analyzed the verdicts pronounced in similar cases in other Minsk courts, Valiantsin Stefanovich says there are certain common traits. First of all, all the detainees faced “disorderly conduct” charges under Art. 17.1 of the Administrative Code. All of them allegedly used foul language outside 23 Independence Avenue. Mr. Stefanovich says the charges themselves are extremely typical of the authorities’ treatment of their opponents – protesters are viewed as aggressive drunkards, who are roaring and clapping their hands, just like Soviet dissidents, who used to be treated like insane. At the same time, none of the police reports on the 22 June protest mentioned intoxication.
Most of the protesters were fined BYR 700,000-1,050,000. However, some of them received milder fines – BYR 70,000 under Par. 6 Art. 6.5 of the Administrative Code – in case they admitted their guilt. Valiantsin Stefanovich emphasizes the fact, as in similar cases following the 19 December 2010 post-election protest requests for milder fines were dismissed.
“One of the defendants Siarhei Maishuk said he had not committed the offence. However, he admitted that could not but trust the police report. As a result, the Judge inquired whether it was a coerced confession. Siarhei Maishuk replied that it did not matter at all. After the trial, he told journalists that he definitely had not committed the offence.
The lawyer stresses the fact that Judge Reliava did not even try to ascertain the truth, she failed to hear none of the witnesses mentioned in the police reports. Besides, he believes there was an order to fine the protesters, as there was not a single arrest verdict pronounced on 23 June.
The lawyer says the show cannot be called justice:
“The authorities were well-prepared for the protest. One can mention the recent press-conference by Lukashenka, when he ordered the Interior Minister to clamp down on any similar protests in the future, saying about the “Stop-Petrol” rally and the previous silent protests. The authorities are really scared of the protests, going on both in Minsk and across Belarus. They know well the experience of Middle East countries, where revolutions were started with similar things.”