A court in Minsk has sentenced seven opposition members, who participated in the December 19th demonstration last year, including two former presidential candidates. Miakalai Statkevich received six years and Dzmitriy Vus – five and a half years, both in a prison camp with a strict security regime. All convicts were charged with “organizing mass unrest.”
During the same trial, Alexander Klaskouski was sentenced to five years in a prison camp. He is a former policeman, who during a demonstration on December 19 last year, dressed in a police uniform, tried to prevent special police troops from attacking protesters. Among 35 people who were tried for participating in the post-election demonstration, Statkievich, Vus and Klaskousky were sentenced to the harshest punishments.
The two convicted candidates were considered by court to be responsible for inciting riots that erupted during the December demonstration, reported Belpan news agency. Vus, allegedly kept informing Statkievich about police units deployment in the Minsk city center. Court also believed they both led the march of „raging mob“. According to Belpan, Statkievich shouted „Long live Belarus“ after hearing his sentence.
Wus had at the same time keep Statkevich to deploy police units in the center of Minsk,. Both believe the court had also lead the march “raging mob” in the prospectus of Independence. According to the agency, Statkevich after his sentence had to shout “Long live Belarus”. Wus, which corresponded with the free foot is still stuck in the courtroom by the police. Vus, who had been released pending trial, was arrested by the police during the court hearing.
Four other dissidents were also sentenced in that trial: Aleksander Kviatkievich to three and a half years of prison, Zmitser Bulanau to three years, Artsiom Khrybkov to four years and Andrei Pazniak to two years.
While their sentences were read, in the courtroom in addition to journalists and members of the families were present: the highest-ranking U.S. representative in Belarus, Michael Scanlan, the German ambassador Christof Weil, Ambassador of Sweden Stefan Eriksson, head of the delegation European Comission Jean-Eric Holzapfel and former presidential candidate Vladimir Niaklajeu.
Judgement was to be handed down on May 20th. However, due to judge’s illness, hearing was postponed. Commentators, associated the delay with the CIS countries summit. In their view, Lukashenko tried to exchange political prisoners for economic concessions from Russia. Yesterday Lukashenko, during his visit to Astana, mentioned that release of convicted political prisoner was possible. In Belarus, it was also considered an attempt to force the European economic assistance.