Officials relaunch repression tools amid massive protests
The Belarusian authorities have been struggling to reduce the level of social discontent ignited by the enforcement of the infamous Decree No. 3, which introduced a special tax on unemployment. The government is using a variety of repressive methods, including intimidation, fines and imprisonment, punitive psychiatry and police raids.
On March 6, four representatives of the anarchist movement were sentenced to 4 to 5 days in jail over their involvement in a protest staged in Brest on March 5. They were brought to the court after 5 p.m. and stood trials until 8:30, so that fewer people could attend the hearings. On the same day, another participant in the demonstration, Andrei Sharenda, was fined 575 rubles. The trial of activist Aliaksandr Kabanau was postponed till March 9.
“Kabanau was released as late as 7 p.m. He will stand trial on two separate charges: disorderly conduct and illegal demonstrating. He was secretly held for 24 hours in the detention center in Biaroza. They took his phone,” human rights defender Tamara Shchapiotkina said.
Protesters in Hrodna are facing ongoing harassment following their involvement in a demonstration held on February 19.
A total of 10 persons faced administrative charges for participation in the protest. Simultaneously, the authorities refused to issue official permit to hold a rally for the abolition of the Decree, which was scheduled for March 15.
Eleven people were charged after a protest in Homieĺ. All of them were accused of violating Article 23.34 of the Administrative Code, which penalizes involvement in demonstrations unless they are allowed by the authorities.
On March 6, police raided a private house in Orša, which hosted an opposition meeting. The search lasted half an hour and was said to stem from allegations of printing counterfeit money. Office equipment was seized, as a result. Local journalist Ihar Kazmerchak says the raid is linked to a protest scheduled for March 12.
The Pinsk District Prosecutor's Office has issued a written warning to local activist Dzmitry Serhiyevich for announcing the date and time of a protest on his page in the vk.com social network. The blogger says that the officials made it clear that his involvement in the demonstration will cost him a heavy fine or a jail term.
Administrative charges were also brought against participants in similar protests held in Mahilioŭ, Viciebsk, Baranavičy and Biaroza.