Picks of the week
On December 19, the House of Representatives (lower chamber of the Belarusian Parliament) approved in the second reading a bill decriminalizing illegal NGO membership, a move long requested by the country’s civil society. The infamous Article 193.1 will however be replaced with administrative liability, which may result in heavy fines (up to 1,225 rubles, or USD 580) for persons acting on behalf of groups that have not been registered by the authorities.
Before entering into legal force, the bill must be approved by the Council of the Republic (higher chamber of Parliament) and signed by President Lukashenka, which is a pure formality in Belarus.
Since Article 193.1 came into force in 2005, 17 people have been convicted under the charges, of whom five were sentenced to prison terms.
On December 19, Ihar Komlik, accountant of the REP trade union, sentenced to 4 years of restricted freedom on politically motivated charges, learned about the conditions of his “house arrest”. Among other things, Komlik will not be able to leave his apartment on days-off and public holidays.
“The police inspector advised to stock up for the four days of New Year holidays,” the activist said.
Ihar Komlik and his son live in the same apartment building. As a result of the absurd restrictions, the son can visit his father, but Komlik is not allowed to come to visit his son.
The absurd nature of the restrictive laws and practices routinely applied in Belarus is demonstrated by endless convictions of peaceful protesters, which at times spiral into ridiculous episodes.
On December 20, a court in Hrodna was fined local activist Mikalai Salianik 980 rubles for staging a performance outside the court building on November 22. A police witness questioned in court said that Salianik was “wearing prison uniform and holding three booklets of the Constitution, which aroused the interest of the police and violated public order.”
The activist argues that wearing prison clothes is not forbidden by law. Besides uniform, he was wearing a metal collar, which was attached to a chain and a log.
Several opposition activists will stand trial after they laid paper ships at the fence of the Russian embassy in Minsk to protest the arrest of Ukrainian seamen in the Sea of Azov.
“They do not have any pictures or videos, which would confirm that I actually did it. Just the testimony of two police officers. Well, as always. A paper ship, Carl! A ship!,” one of the protesters, Sviatlana Kavalenka, said.
In Liepieĺ, Viciebsk region, police arrested two Baptist believers, Andrei Fokin and his wife Tatsiana, for singing and distributing Christian literature near a local market, forum18.org said.
“We were arrested like criminals and taken to the police station,” Andrei Fokin said.
On October 30, the court convicted them for violating assembly restrictions. Andrei Fokin was fined 661.5 rubles, and his wife — 539 rubles, which is an average monthly salary in the town.