Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova: six months behind bars

Belsat journalists Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova have been behind bars for exactly six months. The girls will soon be transferred to the Homiel colony.

Katsyaryna and Darya have been kept behind bars for six months already, but a quarter of their two-year prison term has not yet expired because it is counted from November 20, not 15. Originally, the journalists were detained under administrative code: they spent the first five days in custody in this status. On 20 November, they were given a measure of restraint under criminal charges.

At present, they are in prison #8 in Zhodzina. But soon, they are expected to be transferred to the Homiel colony.

They were detained on November 15, 2020, for broadcasting a violent dispersal during action in memory of Raman Bandarenka and the destruction of a public memorial by security forces. As a result, Katsyaryna and Darya were charged under Part 1 of Article 342 (“Organization and preparation of actions grossly violating public order”) of the Criminal Code. On February 18, 2021, Judge of the Frunzenski District Court of Minsk Natallia Buhuk sentenced the girls to two years’ imprisonment in a penal colony.

Our colleagues pleaded not guilty and considered the persecution as the revenge of the secret services for their professional activities.

The conviction of the journalists resonated widely both in Belarus and internationally. The politically motivated persecution of our colleagues was condemned by journalists, politicians, public figures, diplomats, and leaders of democratic countries.

Katsyaryna’s and Darya’s lawyers demanded that the verdict be canceled, and the proceedings in the criminal case are stopped. But on 23 April, the college board of Minsk city court, composed of Valiantsina Zyankevich, Pyotr Arlou, and Alena Ananich, rejected the appeal, leaving the verdict unchanged. The journalists themselves did not take part in the trial – the court refused to join them for the trial even by video link.

In Zhodzina prison Darya and Katsyaryna were placed on the preventive register as persons “prone to extremism and other destructive actions.” Such status results in a brown card on the cell door to indicate the presence of a person prone to extremism. During check-ins, the reporters must tell the warden their criminal code article and warn him about a preventive record. For the person recognized as “prone to extremism,” there is a certain place in the cell where they must necessarily stay when the warden enters. Also, a person with this status may be periodically called in for preventive conversations.