Andrzej Poczobut, a correspondent of Polish daily “Gazeta Wyborcza” lost an appeal of his conviction for libel of president Lukashenka. A court in Hrodna upheld the sentence for three years in prison suspended for two years.
“A political decision has been made, the sentence was upheld, there were no surprises” – Poczobut told Polish Press Agency PAP. He added he would be able to better asses court’s motivation after receiving the written ruling.
Andrzej Poczobut is planning to take his case to the Supreme Court of Belarus, and if necessary – to the UN Committee for Human Rights – the only international organization where citizens of Belarus can appeal.
The sentence was predictable, thinks Angelika Orekhvo, a chairwomen of the Union of Poles in Belarus – an organization unrecognized by the regime. – Nothing has changed in our country, no new conditions occurred that would allow for Poczobut to be acquitted. – she commented after the court hearing.
Poczobut, who was sentenced in July, appealed both the conviction and the sentence. He also questioned the court procedures, such as rejection to summon defense witness.
Before the court hearing was held, Poczobut had commented on changes in political situation in Belarus, marked by releasing from prison dissidents arrested after the December 19th demonstration against the election fraud. But after his sentence was upheld, he said that “it was an execution of the presidential decision”.
The “Gazeta Wyborcza” correspondent was arrested in early April. Hrodna prosecutor initiate legal proceeding against him based on articles published in the Polish daily and at an independent Belarusian website. Initially he was accused of both label and insult of the Belarusian president, but the prosecution finally dropped the latter charge.
Representatives and officials of the European Union, Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, Polish authorities and politicians spoke in support of Poczobut. Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience.