Popular vlogger sentenced to 4.5 years in jail over two Youtube films declared political prisoner

In the wake of the verdict passed on popular vlogger Pavel Spiryn, Belarusian human rights defenders issued a joint statement on recognising him a political prisoner.

Pavel Spiryn was detained in September, 2020 He was accused with inciting social hatred (Article 130-1 of the Criminal Code); the charge was based on two videos on his YouTube channel: The Edge (posted on 14 June 2019) and The Dark Secret of Belarus’ Prosecutor General: Carte Blanche for Sadism (posted on 22 August 2020). The two films might be about anti-drug legislation and post-election developments in Belarus, but the authorities claimed there were signs of inciting hostility against prosecutors, judges, deputies, senior officials, policemen in them.

Last week, Spiryn was tried in Minsk City Court; judge Dzina Kuchuk found him guilty and sentenced the vlogger to 4.5-year prison term.

The ‘targeted’ social group, according to the authorities, is ‘prosecutors, judges, MPs, senior officials, police officers’, etc, the human rights activists stress.

“We believe that the sentencing of Pavel Spiryn is an inadmissible restriction on freedom of expression, which creates new hazardous forms of persecution for public criticism of the activities of government bodies and officials. In this regard, we note that government officials and police in particular are not a separate social group, and criminal liability for incitement to hatred should primarily prevent incitement to hatred against vulnerable groups, rather than government officials, government agencies and the police in particular,” Monday’s statement reads.

10 Belarusian human rights organisations urge the Belarusian authorities to revoke the sentence against the blogger and release him. As of 8 February, 228 persons have been recognised as political prisoners in Belarus.

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