Will TVP journalist be sentenced on Thursday in Belarus?

Belarusian TVP journalist Iryna Slaunikava was detained at Minsk airport on October 30. She has been in custody since then. Her trial began on June 23. She was charged with “organizing or participating in activities that grossly violate public order.” The trial has been kept secret. Here’s TVP Info’s conversation with the journalist’s father, Alyaksandr Slaunikau, about the trial.

TVP journalist in Belarus Iryna Slaunikava. Photo: TVP Info

The hearing takes place in the Homiel Regional Court. Why is it there, and why doesn’t the district court hear the case?

Yes, the hearing is, in fact, taking place in the Homiel Regional Court. Why not in Minsk? I do not know. Perhaps because the witnesses are in the Homiel colony. This way, they don’t have to be brought to Minsk. Why is it being considered at the regional level? Maybe they thought that, so to speak, the case is special, not simple. At least two high-profile sentences have already been passed by this court. I was just present on 13 July at the sentencing of Katsyaryna Andreyeva, which took place just before the session on Iryna’s case. In the same courtroom, they announced the verdict for Katsyaryna. It was an empty hall, not counting police officers and her husband, Ihar. Routinely, within 5 minutes, the sentence was read out, and the girl was sent to prison for 8 years.

Are there any new details in the daughter’s case?

The case is still being heard behind closed doors, the public has no access to the courtroom. So we don’t know any details. Not only has my lawyer signed a nondisclosure agreement, but I was also told to sign it. But I don’t think I could have found out any secret. But the lawyer says he did not find any secrets and mysteries in the case that would make it worth closing the trial.

How did the third day of the session go?

According to the lawyer, Iryna is confident and knows what is going on in the courtroom. She knows she has nothing to defend herself for, she is innocent, and if it were an open trial, no one would have any doubts about the groundlessness of the charges. For this reason, she believes, the trial was made closed; there could be no other reason. The session went on all day. I was, as before, at the door, mentally communicating and supporting my daughter.

How was Irina looking? What was her mood?

Even in these difficult times for her, my daughter tried to look decent and ordered fresh clothes for the hearing to get rid of the prison smells, at least for a while. In the moments when we could see each other, she would smile and send me and her mother air kisses. She tries to cheer us up, understanding how hard it is for us, so she shows us that she is in good health and mood. In her letters, however, she says she is pretty fed up and is waiting and hoping to see us again soon.

When is the continuation of the trial scheduled?

The hearing is scheduled for July 21, beginning at 11 o’clock. No one knows why the session was postponed. Maybe, because of the workload of judges, or for them to gather more information, or something else. They didn’t tell us. In general, it may happen that there will be a session before lunch, and then the verdict will be read out. And then even close relatives will not be able to be present at the reading of the verdict and support Iryna in this challenging moment in her life.

Iryna spent her birthday on July 12 in a prison cell. How was her birthday?

Iryna wrote that her cellmates congratulated her, and she even happened to be served a good meal that day. We, the relatives, sent her a package of “festive” food on that day, as much as was possible under prison rules. Iryna received letters, postcards and telegrams from her family and friends, but letters from many people did not reach her. And so, on that day, Iryna mentally remembered everyone and talked to everyone who congratulated her. She thanks her colleagues for their congratulations and kind words addressed to her, wishing her a speedy release.

The journalist was detained on October 30, 2021, at Minsk airport after returning from vacation. Iryna was twice sentenced to 15 days in jail for “misdemeanors.” While she was in custody, a criminal case was opened in which she gained the status of a suspect for organizing and preparing actions grossly violating public order or actively participating in them – i.e. riots. On this basis, she was remanded in custody. Later, she was still charged with directing an “extremist formation.” She faces up to seven years in prison. Iryna Slunikava is one of 1,252 political prisoners of the Alyaksandr Lukashenka regime.