Ultimate charges filed against Syarhei Tsikhanouski. He may face up to 15 years in prison

Syarhei Tsikhanouski. Photo: Belsat

The Belarusian Investigative Committee (IC) has completed the investigation of the criminal case against might-have-been presidential candidate Syarhei Tsikhanouski, politician Mikalai Statkevich, and their associates.

Syarhei Tsikhanouski is to be tried under four articles of the Criminal Code:

  • Art. 130-3 (‘inciting social hostility’);
  • Art. 191-2 (‘obstructing work of the Central Election Commission’);
  • Art. 342-1 (‘organisation of actions that grossly violate public order’);
  • Art. 293-1 (‘organisation of mass riots’)

The latter involves the maximum penalty; if found guilty, the blogger might be sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment.

The investigators claim that the accused were involved in preparing for staging mass riots in Belarus in the post-election period. According to them, Tsikhanouski openly called for violence against government officials and law enforcement officers on his Youtube and Telegram channels: his statements ‘incited social hostility’.

The committee says they gathered evidence of the committed crimes’ being linked to the activities of ‘extremists who manipulate the public conscience with the help of destructive Telegram channels’.

They checked 160 equipment units, conducted more than 70 examinations, found correspondence, videos and photos confirming the defendants’ involvement in the crimes, the IC states. As the activity of Tsikhanouski’s group allegedly inflicted damage to the tune of 3.5 million rubles, their property and money were seized.

First trial in ‘Tsikhanouski case’ starts in Belarus

In the spring of 2020, Syarhei Tsikhanouski, the author of Youtube channel Страна Для Жизни (A Country for Life), revealed his presidential ambitions while serving a 15-day jail term for participating in unauthorised mass events. However, the Belarusian Central Election Commission refused to register his initiative group. According to them, only a person who intends to campaign for the presidency must sign the documents. As Syarhei Tsikhanouski was in custody at that moment, all the necessary documents were signed and filed by his wife. On the back of the situation, his wife Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya managed to get her initiative group registered instead.

On May 29, the police arrested Syarhei Tsikhanouski, head of his wife’s nomination group, and at least 15 persons during a peaceful picket in Hrodna. It should be noted that one of the women (Alena K.) who showed up at the picket attempted to stir up a conflict with Tsikhanouski, which resulted in pushing and jostling. According to the official version, one policeman fell down and had to be taken to hospital. On May 30, the Interior Ministry initiated criminal investigation into an alleged act of violence against two police officers. Later, the Investigative Committee stated that Syarhei Tsikhanouski and other persons were charged under Art. 342-1 (planning actions that grossly violate public order) of the Criminal Code of Belarus, which marked emerging of the so called Tsikhanouski’s case.

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In June, he was accused of ‘obstructing the course of elections’ (Art. 191 of the Criminal Code). The charge may stemmed from a complaint that Lidziya Yarmoshyna, Head of the Central Election Commission (CEC), had filed against Tsikhanouski. The top official appealed to the Investigative Committee with the request to check whether there had been elements of crime set out in Art.191 in Tsikhanouski’s actions. In she blamed him for impeding the work of the CEC.

Later, he was also charged with ‘incitement to racial, national, religious or other social hatred or discord committed by a group of persons or causing death through negligence or other serious consequences’ (Art.130-3 of the Criminal Code).

By the moment, Tsikhanouski has already spent 9 months in custody; Belarusian human rights watchdogs recognised him as a political prisoner.

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