On April 14, Kastrychnitski district court of Mahilou completed hearing the case of Syarhei Pyatrukhin and Alyaksandr Kabanau, two bloggers and activists from the city of Brest.
Judge Volha Krauchanka took into account public prosecutor Tatsyana Amosava’s demand and found the two men guilty of ‘organising and preparing actions that grossly violate public order, or active participation in them’ as well as of ‘insulting a representative of authority’.
As a result, Syarhei Pyatrukhin and Alyaksandr Kabanau have been sentenced to three years of imprisonment in a maximum security penal colony each. In addition, the convicts are held obliged to pay off compensation for ‘emotional distress damages’ (1,500 rubles) and a law charge (87 rubles).
Notably, the defendants did not have the chance to hear the verdict, because the judge considered their being taken to the courtroom unnecessary; their defence lawyers were allowed to be present during the announcement of the verdict.
“In the course of the previous sessions, they were also removed from the courtroom for ‘violating the order’. But in fact, they just voiced their protest against the fact that the courtroom was filled with unknown people while the relatives and journalists were not let in. Despite their having every right to it, the bloggers were deprived of the opportunity to deliver the last plea. But as we see, the law is often challenged these days,” Mahiliou-based human rights activist Uladzimir Shantsau commented on the verdict.
Alyaksandr Kabanau, the then press secretary of Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s local initiative group, was detained on June 15 and placed in a temporary detention centre of Leninski district police department of Brest. A local court arrested the blogger for 15 days. He was accused of participating in an ‘unauthorised mass event’ (Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offences). Then the police raided his parents’ home, and the man was transferred to the prison in Minsk.
Syarhei Pyatrukhin, a Brest-based author of YouTube channels People’s Reporter and Youtube Deputies, was also detained in mid June, sentenced to 15 days in jail and taken to the capital city.
Later, the both men were charged under Art. 342 of the Criminal Code of Belarus (organisation and preparation for actions that grossly violate public order). The Belarusian human rights defenders recognised them as political prisoners. They believe that the charges are politically motivated and linked to Pyatrukhin’s and Kabanau’s vlogging: the duo exposed corruption in the region and spoke out about social-environmental problems, including the hazardous battery plant in the city of Brest.