A court in Lenin’s district in Hrodna began a closed-door trial over Andrzej Poczobut, a journalist of Gazeta Wyborcza and the Union of Poles in Belarus activist. The journalist is accused of „offending president“ and „slander of president“, which based on the Belorussian Criminal Code can be punished with two to four years in prison. Vital Latko is the presiding judge.
The charges against Poczobut were brought after his publications in Gazeta Wyborcza and on Belarus Partisan website and his blog. Just before he was arrested, in an interview with Belsat TV, Poczobut said that the case against him is a Hrodna’s KGB revenge for his articles on their activities. Another reason for his arrest would be deterioration of Polish-Belorussian relations. Poland, according to Belorussian state propaganda, attempted to orchestrate an overthrow of Lukashenka.
The trial against Andrzej Poczobut is the first closed-doors legal proceeding after the December 19th events. So far, court hearings of dissidents charged with participating in mass social unrest after the rigged election, were open for public and OSCE observers could also participate in them.
Around 50 people gathered in front of the court building in solidarity with Poczobut. His supporters stood on a sidewalk, without shouting any chants. The lawyer of the defendant appealed the courts decision on keeping trial closed for public. Andrzej Pisalnik, a journalist, commented for Bielpan news agency that should the lawyer’s motion be dismissed by the judge, it will be very difficult to obtain any information on trial. – The lawyer will be bound not to disseminate any materials from the case – he said.
Before the trial was began, Belorussian police launched repressions against other UPB activists. Igor Bancer, one of the leader of the Union, was detained. His wife, Angelika Orechwo, a chairwomen of the unrecognized by the authorities UPB, is currently under police’ monitoring.
Oksana Poczobut, wife of the defendant, told Belsat that police denied her request to see the judge, when she wanted to ask him to allow her to participate in the court hearings.