‘They stay positive’. Closed trial of journo, doctor who revealed details of Bandarenka’s death continues in Minsk

Каtsyaryna Barysevich in court. Minsk, 19 February 2021. Photo: Radio Svaboda / Reuters

On February 22, Maskouski district court of Minsk resumed considering the case of TUT.by journalist Katsyaryna Barysevich and doctor Artsyom Sarokin. The Belarusian authorities accuse the two defendants of disclosing medical secrets. They may be sentenced to up to three years of imprisonment.

The hearing is conducted by judge Svyatlana Bandarenka, the public prosecution is represented by Lyudmila Ivanenka; Volha Batsyuk defends Artom Sarokin in court; Katsyaryna Barysevich’s defence lawyers are Andrey Machalau and Mikhail Badnarchuk.

A doctor working at Minsk emergency care hospital was called in as a witness. Artsyom Sarokin’s colleague was testifying for about 40 minutes; after the interrogation, he had to sign a gag order. According to the doctor, everyone who provided medical assistance to Raman Bandarenka will be summoned to court.

What can I say? The worst thing happened much earlier than the ‘disclosure of medical secrets’. I am glad to have seen Artsyom. Katsyaryna and he stay positive,” the doctor said.

By 12 pm, three health workers have given their testimony.

The hearing kicked off on February 19. On the same say, it became known that the trial got closed to the press and that the it would be held in camera. It is the prosecutor Ivanenka who requested a closed format ‘to avoid the disclosure of medical secrets and preliminary investigation data’.

Cases of doctor and journalist who reported on Bandarenka’s blood sent to court

After the Prosecutor General’s Office opened a criminal case over allegedly ‘violating medical privacy which entailed grave consequences’ (Art. 178-3), TUT.BY reporter Katsyaryna Barysevich and doctor Artsyom Sarokin were arrested on November, 19.

In her article about the tragic death of Minsker Raman Bandarenka, Barysevich referred to Sarokin, a doctor working at Minsk emergency care hospital. He gave her medical records which showed that there had been no alcohol in the blood of the victim. Its authenticity was later confirmed by Bandarenka’s mother. Government officials, including Alyaksandr Lukashenka, claim that Raman Bandarenka, who was beaten to death by unknown individuals on November 11, was in a state of intoxication. Notably, the mother allowed the publication of information about the death, including the data about the absence of alcohol in his blood.

Neither Sarokin nor Barysevich had been prosecuted before, the both Belarusian citizens have a permanent place of residence in the country as well as full-time employment. Their employers and colleagues gave excellent references to them. The judge and investigators are well aware of Artsyom Sarokin’s being a father of three and Katsyaryna Barysevich’s raising a minor daughter alone, but still, the strictest restraint measure (incarceration) was applied.

Belarusian and international human rights watchdogs have recognised Sarokin and Barysevich as political prisoners. They consider the persecution to be politically motivated.

Bandarenka’s murderers have not been found or identified yet. His family does not have any claims against the arrested journalist and doctor.

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