Up to 2.5 years in jail: Minsk court imposes sentences on defendants in so called students case

On July 16, Savetski district court of Minsk announced guilty verdicts in the so called students case.

Only relatives were allowed to be present during reading out the sentences; the rest of people, including ambassadors and diplomats from Czechia, Sweden, the US, the UK, were barred from entering the courtroom. Notably, there was a queue of more than 50 persons who were eager to show support for the defendants. There were three police vans and OMON riot policemen in the vicinity of the court building.

Judge Maryna Fyodarava has taken heed of the demands by prosecutors Anastasiya Malika and Raman Chabatarou and imposed the following sentences on the twelve defendants:

  • 2 years of imprisonment in a minimum-security penal colony for student Hleb Fitzner (he is the only one who pleaded guilty);
  • 2.5 years of imprisonment in a minimum-security penal colony for students Kseniya Syramalot, Kasya Budzko,Yana Arabeyka, Yahor Kanetski, Illya Trakhtenberg, Viktoryia Hrankouskaya, Anastasiya Bulybenka, Maryia Kalenik, Tatsyana Yakelchyk, university lecturer Volha Filatchankava, as well as Alana Hebremaryam, a Coordination Council member and Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s representative on youth and student affairs.

In total, more than 40 students are currently under criminal prosecution in Belarus for public activity and participation in peaceful rallies. As part of the students’ case, accusations were brought against 12 persons. They were charged under Art. 17-2 and Art. 342-1 of the Criminal Code (the latter is ‘organisation of actions that grossly violate public order’).

Students who shaved heads in solidarity with political prisoners put on authorities’ bad books

According to the Belarusian Investigative Committee, they were coordinators at the local level, they posted on special Telegram channels, called for participation in protests, produced and distributed leaflets, led the participants, engaged in their preparation and training, reported on the movement of law enforcement officers. The protests disrupted the educational process and the normal way of universities’ work, because young people blocked corridors and stairways, shouted loudly, whistled, chanted slogans and sang songs, the authorities say.

On September 1, Belarus’ official Knowledge Day, lots of students took to the streets to protest against vote rigging and the authorities’ harsh response to dissidence. OMON special forces and plainclothed policemen detained young people across the country. The students’ protests continued in the autumn of 2020.

On October 26-27, i.e. during the days of the People’s Ultimatum announced by Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the most massive student protests were held in Belarusian universities. On November 12, detentions began, the homes of members of the Belarusian Students’ Association and the organisation’s office were searched.

Riot police disperse Minskers expressing solidarity with defendants in students’ case. At least 14 persons detained