150 persons convicted today
Up to 150 persons have been convicted today on charges of involvement in the protests staged in various parts of Belarus on March 25 and 26. These include human rights defenders and journalists.
At least 120 people stood trials in Minsk. They were eventually sentenced to fines of up to USD 1,000 or imprisoned for up to 25 days.
Most sentences were based on false testimonies by police officers, who argued that the defendants “used foul language” and “resisted arrest”.
Many of the detainees said during the trials that they had been beaten, including Aliaksandr Khaukin, who said that his eyeglasses were broken after a policeman punched him in the face.
Yana Rusakevich, actress of the Belarus Free Theatre, was released shortly after her detention on March 25, but had to seek medical assistance and was eventually diagnosed with a brain injury.
“I don’t know, maybe I’ll get some treatment and then I’ll go to jail,” said she.
Some hearings were held behind closed doors.
Opposition politician Ales Lahvinets has been sentenced to 10 days in jail. He was violently detained on March 23 and was taken to hospital on the same day. During today’s trial, a policeman argued that Lahvinets smashed his head against a police car.
Several dozen people have been convicted in other cities of Belarus.
Among them are human rights defenders, including two activists of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, Kastus Mardzvintsau and Leanid Svetsik. Both were sentenced to 15 days in jail for alleged involvement in an illegal protest.
Another local human rights defender, Pavel Levinau, has been taken to hospital after he faced charges of “illegal demonstrating”.
“The authorities have used the mass protests to exert unprecedented pressure on human rights defenders, who have always behaved actively and selflessly when monitoring the protests and trials, as well as providing assistance to the victims of repression. This is how we, too, have come under attack,” Ales Bialiatski, chairman of the Human Rights Center "Viasna", said.
“We strongly protest against undue pressure on our friends and colleagues, and demand an end to this repression,” he stressed.
Earlier, a number of Belarusian human rights defenders were sanctioned for their peaceful activities during the recent wave of protests.
In particular, Aleh Volchak (Legal Assistance to the Population), was sentenced (without detention) on March 21 to 13 days of arrest for participation in the "March of Angry Belarusians”.
Aleh Hulak (Belarusian Helsinki Committee), Larysa Mikhailouskaya and Liudmila Kuchura (Belarusian Documentation Center), Ales Bialiatski, Anastasiya Loika, Iryna Smeyan-Semianiuk and Aliaksei Loika (Viasna) were detained on March 25 at Viasna’s office during a briefing for observers on the eve of the Freedom Day demonstration. All of them, except Bialiatski, were brought to the district police department, but soon released without charges.
Tatsiana Reviaka (HRC "Viasna") was detained on March 26 during a protest in central Minsk and for more than three hours kept in the district police department.
Siarhei Rusetski (HRC "Viasna") was detained on March 26 and taken to the police station in Biaroza “on suspicion of a theft”.
Tamara Shchapiotkina (HRC "Viasna") was summoned to the police department in Biaroza and charged with illegal journalistic activities (Article 22.9 of the Administrative Code).
Leanid Sudalenka and Anatol Paplauny (both HRC "Viasna"), as well as Andrei Stryzhak (Independent Trade Union REP) were convicted on March 17 for participation a protest staged on February 19 in Homieĺ. Sudalenka received a warning, Paplauny was arrested for 10 days, and Stryzhak was sentenced to 10 days in jail in absentia, after he failed to appear in court.
Yury Belski (BHC) was detained on March 25 in Polack, a few hours before the Freedom Day protest in Minsk. He was sentenced today to 2 days of arrest on “disorderly conduct” charges.