The Belarusian Investigative Committee has issued a press release on the high-profile case of popular vlogger Syarhei Tsikhanouski and his associates.
According to the official version, an ‘illegal public event (rally)’ was staged during a picket to collect signatures in Hrodna on May, 29. The investigators state that some of the participants committed ‘acts that grossly violate public order and are combined with obvious disobedience to the police’s legal demands’, which resulted in two policemen’s getting hurt. However, the committee fails to specify which injuries they suffered.
Syarhei Tsikhanouski and seven other persons were charged under Art. 342-1 (planning actions that grossly violate public order) of the Criminal Code of Belarus. The above article may carry a punishment of up to 3 years in prison.
One of the defendants is also accused of violence against law enforcement officers (Art. 364).
“In the course of the investigation and reviewing CCTV materials, another person who used force against a police officer taking the detainees to the vehicle was identified. A criminal case has been launched against him,” the statement reads.
The defendants will remain in custody until the trial kicks off.
In May, Syarhei Tsikhanouski, the author of Youtube channel Страна Для Жизни ( A Country for Life), revealed his presidential ambitions while serving a 15-day jail term for participating in unauthorised mass events.
However, the Belarusian Central Election Commission refused to register his initiative group. According to them, only a person who intends to campaign for the presidency must sign the documents.As Syarhei Tsikhanouski was in custody at that moment, all the necessary documents were signed and filed by his wife. On the back of the situation, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya managed to get her initiative group registered instead.
On May 29, the police arrested Syarhei Tsikhanouski, head of his wife’s nomination group, and at least 15 persons during a peaceful picket in Hrodna. It should be noted that one of the women (Alena K.) who showed up at the picket attempted to stir up a conflict with Tsikhanouski, which resulted in pushing and jostling. According to the official version, one policeman fell down and had to be taken to hospital. On May 30, the Interior Ministry initiated criminal investigation into an alleged act of violence against two police officers.
Human rights activists published the names of the detained after the incident in Hrodna: Syarhei Tsikhanouski, Yauhen Raznichenka, Dzmitry Furmanau, Uladzimir Navumik, Vyarhily Ushak, Alyaksandr Aranovich, Syarhei Kalmykou, Vasily Babrouski and Artsyom Sakau. The police searched the homes of the most of the detainees; some were transferred to Minsk remand prison #1.
On June 3, an investigative group found $ 900,000 during a third straight search of Syarhei Tsikhanouski’s summer house in Homiel district.
Since late May, dozens of persons, including members of Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s initiative group and civil activists, have been detained or prevented from taking part in pre-election pickets. Notably, a wannabe presidential candidate does not have to get permission from the authorities for holding such a picket.
On May 31, human rights centre Viasna (Spring) recognised Syarhei Tsikhanouski as political prisoner. The representatives of Belarusian human rights organisations have called on the Belarusian authorities to immediately release Tsikhanouski and his supporters.