A Minsk court has sentenced Andrey Byalyauski, a former defendant in the White Legion case, to one year of restriction of liberty without sending him to penitentiary institutions.
Hardly had the authorities drawn the line under the ‘patriots’ case when they initiated the criminal prosecution of Byalyauski, who lives in Minsk and works as a designer. On December 12, the Belarusian Investigative Committee formally charged Andrey Byalyauski under Art. 295-1 of the Criminal Code (illegal manufacturing, purchase, transfer into possession, sale, storage, transportation, transfer or carrying of firearms, ammunition, explosives, etc.) for storing one cartridge which KGB officers had found when searching his flat on March 24.
According to the defense lawyer, Byalyauski never had an intention to check the combat capability of the cartridge. According to him, the defendant found a cartridge in the newly-purchased car, took it home as a souvenir and forgot about its existence.
Although Byalyauski admitted his guilt, he considered the sentence ‘unfair’. He is set to appeal against the verdict.
“They tried me over having one cartridge – this is nonsense. In fact, they [authorities] aimed to punish me against the backdrop of the previous case, to demonstrate at least one clue. Well, I have been punished,” he told Belsat.
Belarusian human rights defender Valyantsin Stefanovich warned that If Byalyauski or other defendants got prison terms, human rights activists would consider their sentences as politically motivated, which would raise the question of their recognition as political prisoners.
On March 21, president Alyaksandr Lukashenka stated that several dozen persons ‘trained how to deal with weapons in [special] camps’ had been arrested in Belarus. According to him, such camps were located not far from the Belarusian towns of Babruysk and Asipovichy.
About 30 persons – former members of the White Legion, state-authorized sports and military club Patriot, Young Front activists as well as people who are not associated with any organizations, landed up in jail after Lukashenka’s words about ‘armed militants’ posing a threat to Belarus.
However, the first-ever case that had been opened under Article 287 of the Belarusian Criminal Code was closed on November 27.