Belsat TV journalists Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova have been behind bars for more than four months.
Katsyaryna Andreyeva was transported from the pre-trial detention centre Nr 1 in Minsk
to the remand prison in the town of Zhodzina on March, 17. The transfer lasted all night and ended only in the morning: firstly, she and other prisoners were placed in paddy wagons and carried to Minsk railway station, then they were sent to Zhodzina in the so called Stolypin cars, and finally, prsioner truck took them from the local train station to the prison. Before and immediately after the transfer, Katsyaryna had to spend several hours in special cells.
Despite harsh conditions, Katsyaryna does not lose heart; she does not seem to have any health issues. Defence lawyer Syarhei Zikratski has already visited her in Zhodzina prison; the journalist’s husband Ihar Ilyash has recently managed to hand over a parcel to Katsyaryna.
Her colleague Darya Chultsova was transported to Zhodzina a day before, on March, 16.
It is an open secret that messages from outside give enourmous support and encouragement to a prisoner; that is why we urge our readers to send letters to the jailed journalists:
Кацярына Андрэева (Бахвалава): 222160 Беларусь, г. Жодзіна, вул. Савецкая, д. 22а / Katsyaryna Andreyeva (Bakhvalava): Savetskaya Street 22a, Zhodzina, 222160 Belarus
Дарʼя Чульцова: 222160 Беларусь, г. Жодзіна, вул. Савецкая, д. 22а / Darya Chultsova: Savetskaya Street 22a, Zhodzina, 222160 Belarus
Don’t forget to enclose an empty envelope so that the girls could respond to your letter. Thank you for your unindifference!
The journalists’ case was considered in Frunzenski district court of Minsk within three days in February. The investigators claim the Belsat crew ‘coordinated protesters and called for further actions’, but the two media workers were just performing their professional duties by reporting from the scene. Moreover, in accordance with the authorities’ version, the livestream of the journalists resulted in the stoppage of 13 buses, 3 trolleybuses and 3 streetcar routes as well as the damage to the city transport agency Minsktrans (around 11,562 rubles). Public prosecutor Alina Kasyanchyk demanded the two girls serve a two-year prison term each and their working equipment be confiscated in profit of the state. The defence lawyers asked the court to acquit the defendants due to the lack of evidence, but the judge took heed of the prosecution’s opinion.
On February 18, judge Natallya Buhuk passed a verdict of guilty and sentenced Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova to two years of imprisonment in a minimum-security penal colony.
Andreyeva’s lawyer Syarhei Zikratski voiced the main theses of the defence. According to them, one cannot qualify the events of November 15 as ‘actions that grossly violate public order’. International law guarantees citizens the right to peaceful assembly, and on that day, Belarusians just exercised their right, the lawyers state. In their opinion, the prosecution failed to present any facts of disobedience to officers’ lawful demands, which is a necessary condition for starting prosecution under this article. However, the verdict reads that the disobedience occurred. Moreover, they did not provide any proofs of the allegation that it was the protesters’ actions that caused a traffic disruption on that Sunday.
Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova were arrested on November 15 for broadcasting live a violent dispersal of a rally in memory of murdered protester Raman Bandarenka and the destruction of a national memorial in the so called Square of Change by security forces. They were filming and commenting on what was going on from the apartment on the 14th floor of the house on Smarhouski Trakt Street in Minsk, where they had been invited by the hosts. After the rally, armed riot police broke the door to the apartment and detained the crew.
On November 20, they were charged under Part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code (organisation and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order). The girls were kept in custody, transferred to Zhodzina prison and held in separate cells.
On November 24, Belarusian human rights watchdogs recognised Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova as political prisoners.