On Tuesday, Belarusian Christian Democracy party leader Pavel Sevyarynets and European Belarus civil campaign coordinator Yauhen Afnahel have been sentenced to seven years of imprisonment in a medium security penal colony for ‘organising mass riots’.
On May 12, Mahiliou regional court started hearing the cases of the European Belarus civil campaign activists (Yauhen Afnahel, Pavel Yukhnevich, Maksim Vinyarski, Andrey Voynich), blogger Zmitser Kazlou, web activist and Telegram channel administrator Iryna Shchasnaya, opposition politician Pavel Sevyarynets.
The trial was being held behind the closed doors. Even family members of the defendants were barred from entering the courtroom; according to the authorities, the materials of the cases are related to a secret ‘protected by law’. For this reason, their defence lawyers were obliged not to break the secrecy of the investigation; they could not disclose any details.
Their cases were combined into one trial, although the arrestees were detained at different moments of time and on separate occasions.
Yauhen Afnahel, Pavel Yukhnevich, Maksim Vinyarski, Andrey Voynich, Iryna Shchasnaya were charged under Article 293 of the Criminal Code (‘preparation for participation or participation in mass riots’).
Pavel Sevyarynets has been behind bars for over eleven months. He was detained even before the elections – on June 7, when he was returning from a picket to collect signatures. Later, he was charged under part 1 of article 293 of the Criminal Code (‘organisation of mass riots’). The investigation into the case against the political prisoner ended only in February.
Zmitser Kazlou, a Youtuber from the town of Baran, was also detained in June. He was accused of ‘organisation or active participation in group actions that grossly violate public order. under Article 342 of the Criminal Code of Belarus.
According to RFE/RL, judge Iryna Lanchava has announced guilty verdicts and imposed the following sentences on the rest of the defendants:
If not appealed against, the sentences will come into force in ten days.