On October 12 Mahiliou district court found the journalist guilty under clause 3 of the article 23.34 (participation in unauthorized action) and sentenced him to 15 days of arrest. Three days that he had spent in the detention center before the trial will be counted in for Sidareuski.
Andrei Bastunets, chairman of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, came to the hearing of Sidareuski’s case. At the trial, he confirmed that Sidareuski was indeed a member of the organization and was acting as a journalist. It was the judge Maksim Kurpachanka who offered to call the BAJ representative.
At the hearing Sidareuski stated that he had attended a peaceful protest in Mahiliou on August 23 and September 6 as a journalist of Belsat. Sidareuski’s administrative report states the following: “I was wearing a vest with an inscription “PRESS” and was making video recordings showing to people. With this I expressed my dissatisfaction with the presidential election”. On the police photos presented in court as evidence of Sidareuski’s guilt, he stands with a professional camera in his hands and shoots what is happening around him.
Still, this was not enough for the judge to return Sidareuski’s case back to the police investigators for revision. He believed that Sidareuski did not have an employment contract with any Belarusian media outlets, and also had no accreditation as a journalist for the Belsat TV channel, which means he was just a protest participant and thus guilty.
This is not the first conviction of Sidareuski for his alleged participation in peaceful protests in Mahiliou. On August 13 another court recognized him as a participant of the protest where he was not physically present and sentenced him to 8 days of arrest. Sidareuski called this case “completely falsified”.
“This is police persecution of me as a journalist. Now the police are afraid of journalists and even just people who shoot photos or videos at protests. They do not need such images to get public,” said Alyaksandr Sidareuski.