On May 12, Mahiliou regional court started hearing the cases of the European Belarus civil campaign activists (Yauhen Afnahel, Pavel Yukhnevich, Maksim Vinyarski, Andrey Voynich), blogger Zmitser Kazlou, web activist and Telegram channel administrator Iryna Shchasnaya, opposition politician Pavel Sevyarynets.
The trial is being held behind the closed doors. Twenty minutes prior to today’s hearing, about 40 persons who came to express their solidarity with political prisoners were ordered to leave the court building. The police warned that if they failed to obey, the gathering would be considered as an ‘unauthorised mass event’.
Even family members of the defendants were barred from entering the courtroom; according to the authorities, the materials of the cases are related to a secret ‘protected by law’. For this reason, their defence lawyers have been obliged not to break the secrecy of the investigation; they cannot disclose any details.
Yauhen Afnahel, Pavel Yukhnevich, Maksim Vinyarski, Andrey Voynich, Iryna Shchasnaya are charged under Article 293 of the Criminal Code (‘preparation for participation or participation in mass riots’).
Pavel Sevyarynets has been behind bars for over ten months. He was detained even before the elections – on June 7, when he was returning from a picket to collect signatures. Later, he was charged under part 1 of article 293 of the Criminal Code (‘organisation of mass riots’). The investigation into the case against the political prisoner ended only in February. The politician may face face from 3 to 8 years of imprisonment.
Zmitser Kazlou, a Youtuber from the town of Baran, was also detained in June. He was accused of ‘organisation or active participation in group actions that grossly violate public order. under Article 342 of the Criminal Code of Belarus.
The Belarusian human rights community recognised the seven persons as political prisoners.