Picks of the week
On April 9, the Lieninski District Court of Brest opened the hearing of defamation charges brought against local blogger Siarhei Piatrukhin. In a frustrating but hardly unexpected move at the outset of the trial, the judge ordered to remove those standing, including Viasna’s observers, while the courtroom was packed with plainclothes police officers who came “to support their colleagues”. The verdict in the case is expected on Monday, April 15.
Vitaly Maksimov, leader of the Unification Church’s branch in Belarus, is facing deportation to Russia, despite a valid residence permit, a wife and three children. A Russian national, Maksimov allegedly committed several minor offenses, including illegal parking and speeding. The man says the car he drives is registered in his brother’s name and therefore he could not be charged with the above traffic violations. The believer fears the harassment is linked to his involvement in the activities of the Unification Movement group, which is not officially recognized in Belarus.
In just three months, threats and pressure made more than 600 employees of the Belaruskali state-owned potash producer leave the Independent Trade Union of Miners, praca-by.info said. The trade union leaders say the workers were forced to pull out due to daily mistreatment by the factory managers. As a result, the Salihorsk-based critical organization lost 15% of its activists.
A man in Hrodna is facing up to 4 years in prison for sharing a Rammstein video on the VKontakte social media site. Andrei Halavenka was charged with porno peddling, after a government-run expert service said the music video Pussy featured “sexually explicit content.” Halavenka says he did not know that the clip was illegal in Belarus.
According to human rights defenders, the experts’ findings are highly questionable, as the video is public domain content and ordinary users can’t access the list of prohibited materials.