On July 2, Katsyaryna Vinnikava, a freshly minted alumna of the Belarusian State University’s Law School, was tried in Leninski district court of Minsk. She was detained soon after making a powerful speech at the graduation ceremony.
The girl was charged under two articles of the Code of Administrative Offenses: Art. 24.3 (‘disobedience to a lawful order or requirement of an official’) and Art. 24.23 (‘violating the rules of organising or holding mass events’). Judge Maryna Klimchuk sentenced the defendant to 15 days in jail. She was taken to the detention centre on Akrestsin Street.
A person who met Katsyaryna Vinnikava behind bars brought journalists up to speed on the confinement conditions there. According to her, Katsyaryna was not given a mattress in ‘Akrestsin’ prison; moreover, the mattresses of her ‘non-political’ cellmates were seized as well.
“They [‘non-political’ prisoners] said they did not understand why taking matresses away was necessary, but noted that they would not hate us [as we unwittingly became a reason for that]. It was very cold in the cells at night, the lights were on twenty-four hours straight. As sort of torture, they turn on the entire repertoire of Tsima Belaruskikh at full volume several times in a row. The food parcels are said to be handed over to prisoners only when they are released; they [prison authorities] are in the habit of placing homeless people in the cells where political prisoners are being kept”, the woman who has recenly served a term in the notorious detention facility says.
As reported earlier, Katsyaryna Vinnikava publicly thanked political prisoner and prominent Belarusian lawyer Maksim Znak as well as the fired lecturers during the diploma delivery ceremony at BSU’s Law Faculty on June, 29.
“I bow down before Alena Uladzimirauna Layeuskaya, Katsyaryna Viktorauna Novikava, Alyaksei Ivanavich Sakharchuk, Alena Ivanauna Basalay, Maksim Alyaksandravich Znak. Thank you for showing by your personal example who a real lawyer is and what law is!”
“Victor Hugo said: ‘To me, it doesn’t matter on whose side power is, to me it matters on whose side law is! Please, you all who are going to work as lawyers or work as lawyers, remember that law is the art of goodness and justice. And taken as a whole, goodness, common sense, human dignity always win.”
Katsyaryna‘s speech brought the audience to their feet, and the video of the graduation ceremony immediately went viral on the Belarusian segment of the Internet, which might have caused the authorities’ outrage.