‘Army with People’ activists sentenced in Minsk

On May 7, Minsk Regional Court passed verdicts in the criminal case of the “Army with People” telegram channel.

The Minsk regional court held a hearing in the case of Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s trustee Antanina Kanavalava and the administrators of the Telegram channel “Army with People.” Minsk, Belarus. May 7, 2021. Photo: Belsat

Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s confidante during the presidential election Antanina Kanavalava, political activist of the unregistered party “Narodnaya Hramada” Syarhei Sparysh, and participants of the telegram channel “Army with People” Syarhei Yarashevich, Syarhei Korshun, and Yauhen Privalau were in the dock. They were all detained at different times.

The political prisoners were sentenced to the terms requested by the prosecutor on 4 May:

  • Syarhei Sparysh – 6 years in a high-security penal colony,
  • Syarhei Yarashevich – 5.5 years in a maximum-security penal colony,
  • Syarhei Korshun and Yauhen Pryvalau – 4.5 years in a medium-security penal colony,
  • Antanina Kanavalava and Syarhei Yarashevich – 5.5 years in a minimum-security penal colony.

These were the sentences passed by Judge Syarhei Yepikhau.

Photo: Belsat

Who was sentenced

Syarhei Sparysh was detained before the election – on June 25, 2020, in an administrative case for laying flowers at the military cemetery in Minsk on May 8. Later a criminal case under part 1 of article 342 of the Criminal Code was brought against him.

In July, a former policeman Syarhei Korshun, who was a member of the telegram channel “Army with People,” was also detained. Antanina Kanavalava was detained on 6 September. A month later, her husband, Syarhei Yarashevich, who was also a participant in the mentioned telegram channel, was detained. The couple has two children, aged four and six, whom Antanina’s mother urgently took abroad.

Yauhen Pryvalau is the only person involved in the case who was not in custody. He is also the only one who partially admitted his guilt. Syarhei Sparysh was removed from the courtroom.

Photo: Belsat

Mocking Yarmoshyna and changing nicknames

The activists were accused of preparing to participate in the mass riots and of preparing for the riots. At the same time, Sparysh was also accused of obstructing the work of the Central Election Commission.

According to “Viasna,” they were accused of using telegram channels and YouTube, including the telegram channel “Army with People,” changing their nicknames and deleting correspondence to organize mass riots. In addition, the activists were charged with providing “a deliberately false assessment of the illegitimacy of official and public duties performed by representatives of the authorities, illegal calls to disobey them, resist them,” and calls to subscribe to the channel, links to educational literature, recommendations to use Telegram to communicate, information on ways of psychological defiance of the authorities, recommendations on how to avoid prosecution.

The investigation found particularly illegal the appeals to the current law enforcement officers to refuse to carry out orders. The prosecutor stated that the telegram channel informed its subscribers about the time and place of the mass unrest and taught them how to use weapons, arrange arson, and damage property. He called the streams from the protests propaganda of criminal activity.

However, the state prosecutor did not name specific dates of the riots directly related to the accused and the damage to property, health, and life of citizens or government officials caused by such actions.

Syarhei Sparysh, according to the investigation, was also involved in threatening and mocking CEC Chairperson Lidziya Yarmoshyna.