Court visitors fined and jailed in absurd case

Smarhon residents have been fined 130 basic units and 64 days in jail for shouting “Zhyve Belarus” (Long live Belarus) in the court corridor, reports the human rights center Vyasna.

The case began on February 18, when the Smarhon court read out the verdict upon Inesa Markava and Ruslan Valyuk in the criminal case for defamation against police officers. They were sentenced to two years of freedom restriction at home and in general, respectively. After the verdict was pronounced, somebody shouted “Live Belarus!” in the court corridor. The cry was heard by the head of Smarhon court Lyudmila Pyatrova, who was in the next hall. At her request, a police squad was called, which later detained several people.

Chairwoman of Smarhon District Court Liudmila Pyatrova. Photo:

Mass detentions of people present at the trial of Markava and Valyuk started after the incident in Smarhon court. Police reports were filed under Article 23.24 of the Administrative Code for unauthorized picketing in court. A criminal case under Article 339 “Hooliganism” was opened over this fact, but the investigation has not yet found the perpetrators.

The hearings on the case have been held in the last two months in Astravets district court. During this time, 10 Smarhon residents were convicted.

Natalia Putyrskaia was fined 870 BYN, Nina Shysh – 870 BYN, Lyudmila Sulzhytskaia was sentenced to 10 days, Yauhen Novikau – 12 days, Syarhei Troy – 15 days, Yauhen Matskevich – 15 days, Illya Pyatunau – 2 days. Ruslan Valyuk, convicted in a criminal case, was also sentenced to 10 days of arrest. Maret Valyuk, Ruslan’s mother, who came to court on 18 February to support her son, was also fined for “illegal picketing.” She was fined the maximum penalty under the old article 23.34 of the Administrative Code – 1,450 rubles. Andrei Markau, brother of Inesa, was sentenced to a fine of 580 rubles. Only Natallya Kovel was acquitted.

Romuald Ulan, now a political prisoner, was also detained in this case. He was sent to Homel for freedom restriction term under the criminal case for spreading false information about Smarhon police officers.

Also, during this time, Ilya Petunov, a Russian citizen, was deported from Belarus.

As “Viasna” human rights defender Ales Derhachou pointed out, the court used the principle of group responsibility: “if he was present, it means he shouted slogans, although the personal guilt of none of those present was established.