Our heroes and innocent victims: 10 harshest sentences in political trials

Last week, political prisoners Maryia Kalesnikava and Maksim Znak were sentenced to 11 and 10 years in prison, respectively.

They were found guilty of conspiracy to seize state power in an unconstitutional way (Part 1 of Article 357 of the Criminal Code), creation of an extremist group and its management (Part 1 of Article 361-1 of the Criminal Code), as well as calls for action to cause damage to national security (Part 3 of Article 361 of the Criminal Code).

They love music and wanted to stay in Belarus. What we know about Maryia Kalesnikava and Maksim Znak

Let us remember the people who received the most severe punishments from the illegal regime for their political position during these 12 turbulent months.

The soldier who was faithful to people

Captain of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Belarus Dzyanis Urad was sentenced to 18 years in prison for publishing a letter from the Minister of Internal Affairs to the Minister of Defence on the use of military personnel against the peaceful Belarusian population. For this he was charged under Article 356 of the Criminal Code (‘treason’). The so-called trial was held behind closed doors.

Dzyanis and Iryna Urad. Photo from family archive

Dzyanis Urad is 29 years old, he is married and has a child. The captain is from Rasony, Vitsebsk region. He studied at the Military Academy at the Faculty of Communications and Automated Control Systems, graduating in 2014.

Political prisoner Dzyanis Urad sentenced to 18 years in jail

The banker who risked everything

In July 2021, Viktar Babaryka was sentenced to 14 years in prison. The former banker was arrested together with his son Eduard in July 2020, when he expressed a desire to run in the presidential election in Belarus. He and many of his colleagues were charged with various economic crimes.

Viktar Babaryka in court. 6 July 2021. Photo: Reuters

The trial lasted more than four and a half months. Viktar Babaryka made his last speech on June 28 and said that he had not committed any illegal actions and was not ashamed of his children, colleagues and associates.

Viktar Babaryka’s final plea in court: ‘I cannot confess to crimes I did not commit’

The musician who remained in Belarus

Maryia Kalesnikava, a professional musician, was the coordinator of Viktar Babaryka’s staff, and later joined Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya‘s team. She was arrested on 7 September 2020; a day later, there was an attempt to forcibly deport her to Ukraine.

Maryia Kalesnikava and Maksim Znak in court. Photo: Deutsche Welle / Telegram

But the brave woman tore her passport and returned to Belarus, where she faced long months of arrest and a sentence of 11 years in prison. The so-called trial was held behind closed doors.

Kalesnikava ‘treats criminal case with irony’ her lawyer says

The engineer who fought

Tsikhan Vosipau was sentenced to 11 years in prison for allegedly refusing to get out of his BMW car on the orders of police during the protests on the night of August 10-11, 2020, and hitting five soldiers of the Internal Troops with a car.

25-year-old engineer Tsikhan Vosipau in courtroom. Photo: AB / Belsat

Later, according to the indictment, he threw the car into a pond and then called the police, reporting that the car had been stolen.

Political prisoner Tsikhan Vosipau in punishment cell after transfer

The witness to murder

Alyaksandr Kardzyukou is a resident of Brest who saw the murder of Henadz Shutau from Brest by Lukashenka’s security forces. The security officers shot at him on August 11, and on August 19 Henadz died at the hospital.

Alyaksandr Kardzyukou in court. 19 February 2021. Photo: Belsat

The killers decided to shift the blame on the victim and make the witness of the murder one of the criminals. Alyaksandr was accused of attempting to kill a soldier who was in civilian clothes during the protests. The man who shot Henadz Shutau was the victim of the case.

Shutau’s murder witness to serve 10 years in jail after appeal court leaves his verdict unchanged

Alyaksandr Kardzyukou was sentenced to 10 years in prison for allegedly attempting to attack a security officer and resisting a ‘public order guard’.

The guy from Self-defence

Yahor Mikhailau, a resident of Minsk, threw a Molotov cocktail into a tank that was standing on the railway platform in Stsyapyanka on the night of January 31, 2021. The Ministry of Defence initially called the tank arson a fake, but it turned out that the fakes were statements by Lukashenka’s generals.

Yahor Mikhailau. Photo: spring96.org

The young man was tried under Article 289 of the Criminal Code (‘an act of terrorism’). Yahor received 10 years in prison.

The lawyer who defended the law

Maksim Znak was a lawyer of Viktar Babaryka’s election headquarters and joined the Coordination Council in August 2020. He is a PhD in Law, known by a thorough knowledge of law and principles. Znak was arrested on September 9.

Maksim Znak.

He was convicted together with Maryia Kalesnikava behind closed doors. The sentence is 10 years in prison.

Imprisoned lawyer Maksim Znak nominated for Trarieux human rights award

The businessman who defended himself

Alyaksandr Trotski was stopped by unknown masked men on August 12 and, threatened with a weapon, was rudely ordered to leave the car. Saving his life, he tried to leave, after which the car was shot at.

Alyaksandr Trotski with his wife and daughter. Photo from family archive

As a result, the windows of the car were broken, the driver was taken out and severely beaten. He was later accused of attempting on the life of a policeman and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Record harsh: Prosecutor demands 11 years in jail for Minsker who slightly hit officer

The antiarcrafter who chose to struggle fro freedom

Yury Byalko was thrown in jail for 9 years in a case of participating in mass protests. A graduate of the Military Academy majoring in Air Artillery allegedly kept weapons, prepared for resistance, and discussed the arson of tobacco stalls.

Yury byalko. Source: spring96.org

Prior to his arrest, 37-year-old Yury Byalko worked as a sales manager.

The father of many who defended young people

Syarhei Sikorski worked as an assistant to the head of one of the capital’s organizations. He has four children; the youngest daughter is 4 years old. On August 11, he and his wife and friends went on a protest. There he saw riot police beating unarmed youth, and, outraged by this, began a fight against the executioners.

Syarhei Sikorski in court. Photo: spring96.org

According to Article 293 of the Criminal Code (‘participation in riots’), Syarhei was sentenced to 9 years in prison.

At least 15: Deaths linked to post-election protests in Belarus