Belarusian court hands down harsh sentence in riot case

Alyaksei Melnikau in the courtroom. Photo: Belsat

Court of Kastrychnitski district of Mahiliou has found Alyaksei Melnikau guilty under four articles of the Criminal Code and sentenced him to seven years’ imprisonment in a reinforced regime colony and a fine of 50 basic units (1,450 rubles). The Mahiliou resident was tried for preparing to participate in mass riots with pogroms and arson and for creating and storing weapons. The trial was held behind closed doors, Belsat reports.

Mr Melnikau was tried for preparation for participation in mass riots with pogroms and arson and for creation and possession of weapons under Article 13, Part 2 of Article 293, Part 3 of Article 295 and Part 1 of Article 295-3 of the Criminal Code. Melnikau’s trial was conducted in a closed format; the accused did not have a lawyer, he admitted his guilt partially, only in the part about storage of weapons. Journalists were allowed into the courtroom for the announcement of the verdict. After the verdict, Melnikau answered questions from Belsat correspondent.

“I don’t admit my guilt and also what I was incriminated with is not true. The accusation is just a “witch hunt”, you understand it all. Why the hearing was closed – I don’t know, but certainly not because of my petition. The verdict was in accordance with the prosecutor’s request. I defended myself, I think there are no lawyers, so I did not have one, and I do not have the money for a lawyer,” said Melnikau.

The young man was detained on August 9 last year, firecrackers were seized from him, as well as three homemade incendiary devices and a knife. According to the case materials, Melnikau tried to bring all these things from Mahiliou to Minsk “to take part in the riots”.

Alyaksei Melnikau in court. Photo: Belsat

The detainee was found at home with a “double-barrelled smooth-bore handgun, made by him and suitable for individual shots,” TUT.BY writes. According to the investigation, the man produced “at least five homemade incendiary devices”.