Minsk: Four persons convicted for taking part in protests

On September 16, Frunzenski district court passed guilty verdicts in the cases of Natallya Astreyka, Halina Zaronak, political prisoners Syarhei Shchytsenka and Syarhei Byalevich, human rights centre Viasna reports.

Four defendants after announcing verdict. Minsk, 16 September 2021. Photo: spring96.org

The four defendants were charged under Article 342 of the Criminal Code (‘organisation of or participation in actions that gross violate public order’) for taking part in protests on Victors’ Avenue, Masherau Avenue, Independence Avenue as well as on Surhanau Street.

According to the authorities’ version, they were walking on the roadway, clapping their hands, one of the defendants was carrying a white-red-white flag. Allegedly, all of them repeatedly refused to comply with the police’s demands to disperse. They were also accused of communicating on a Telegram chat, where they ‘egged on’ other users to participate in protest rallies. Astreyka, Zaronak, Byalevich pleaded not guilty; Shchytsenka admitted partial guilt.

Judge Yuliya Bliznyuk took heed of public prosecutor Dzmitry Khavauka’s demand and sentenced Natallya Astreyka, Halina Zaronak and Syarhei Shchytsenka to three years of restriction of liberty without being sent to a correctional facility; Syarhei Byalevich – to three years of restriction of liberty in an open-type correctional facility.

The two men were released in the courtroom; awaiting the trial, the women were at liberty, but under travel restrictions. In addition, the Minsk public transport agency estimated that it suffered losses of about 126,100 rubles due to the convicts’ actions and filed a corresponding appeal to court.

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