Another hefty sentence: Reputed blogger Eduard Palchys gets 13 years in jail

On Friday, Minsk City Court has sentenced political prisoner Eduard Palchys to 13 years in a penal colony, Mediazona.by, reports. The hearings have been held in camera.

It is not the first stiff sentence that has been delivered this week. On December 14, judge Mikalai Dolya imposed draconian prison terms on the following bloggers and politicians:

  • Syarhei Tsikhanouski got 18 years in a medium security penal colony (he was found guilty under Art. 342-1, 293-1, 130-3, 191-2);
  • Artsyom Sakau and Dzmitry Papou16 years in a medium security penal colony each (found guilty under Art. 342-1, 293-1, 130-3, 191-2);
  • Uladzimir Tsyhanovich and Ihar Losik15 years in a medium security penal colony each (found guilty under Art.293-1, 130-3);.
  • Mikalai Statkevich – 14 years in a high security penal colony (found guilty under Art. 293-1).

Eduard Palchys started to be tried on December 6. At the very beginning, Palchys refused to stand up and asked the judges’ recusal , but the request was denied.

“I cannot consider it a trial,” said the defendant.

The case was considered by judge Pyotr Arlou who took heed of the prosecutor’s demand and ruled to hold the trial behind closed doors. The decision was made in order to ‘prevent the distribution of extremist materials’.

Blogger Eduard Palchys. Photo: ІА / Belsat

Eduard Palchys is charged under four articles of the Criminal Code:

  • ‘Incitement of hatred by a group of persons with grave consequences’ (Part 3 of Article 130);
  • ‘Preparation of mass riots’ (Part 1 of article 293);
  • ‘Preparation of actions that grossly violate public order’ (Article 342);
  • ‘Calls for actions detrimental to national security’ (Article 361).

In April 2021, Partyzanski district court of Minsk recognised the blogger’s Telegram channel PALCHYS as ‘extremist’. The Belarusian Investigative Committee openly admitted that they wanted to punish the blogger for his activity on the Internet:

“Palchys’ main weapon was the Internet resources he created and managed, including a Telegram channel and pages on social networks.”

By the ‘organisation of mass unrest’, the committee means the announcements of the place and time of protests. By ‘harm to national security’ — publications ‘aimed at destabilising the situation in the country, artificially inflaming tensions and confrontation in society, to facilitate the subsequent seizure of state power’.

A year ago, Eduard’s wife Viktoryia Palchys gave birth to their daughter. The man has not seen the child yet.

Belarus in top five countries with imprisoned journalists

In the autumn of 2020, amid the post-election protests in Belarus, Eduard Palchys was about to leave the country, but he did not show up at the place from which he was supposed to be taken to the border by a driver. In late September, Viktoryia Palchys wrote about his disappearance on Facebook. In October 2020, Eduard was first put under administrative detention for 30 days, then made a criminal suspect. The Belarusian human rights community recognised him as a political prisoner.

A few years years ago, the blogger and founder of the 1863x.com was considered as a prisoner of conscience for the first time. Under the pen-name Jhon Silver, he published articles criticizing the Belarusian and Russian authorities on his website. After being detained by the Belarusian KGB in 2015, he moved to Ukraine. In January 2016, however, he was arrested in Russia and later extradited to Belarus.

Eduard Palchys was charged with inciting hatred on grounds of race, nationality, religion, language, or other social affiliation (Art. 130-1 of the Criminal Code). Having examined his publications, human rights activists did not find any extremist signs in them. In October 2016, Minsk City Court announced the verdict on his case and sentenced him to 1 year and 9 months of supervised release; the blogger was freed in courtroom.

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