Five years in jail: well-known activist Vitold Ashurak sentenced in Lida

He also has to pay 1,000 rubles of compensation to the policeman.

On 18 January Lida District Court passed a verdict in the criminal case against Vitold Ashurak, activist from Byarozauka, Hrodna regional coordinator of the movement “For Freedom”, member of the BPF Party Seim.

He was found guilty under article 342 part. 1 (participation in the group actions that grossly violate public order) and 364 (violence against a police officer) of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 5 years in a general regime colony and a fine of 1,000 rubles in favor of the victim, in this case the policeman.

“I did what I had to do, what my civic stance demanded of me. I was well aware of what it threatened me with,” Vitold wrote in one of his letters from prison.

The activist was detained on August 9 for a few days, and then on September 19 he was sentenced to 30 days of administrative arrest for participation in 8 rallies. He served his sentence in the Lida remand prison. However, after one day in jail he was not released and was kept on a criminal charge for organization of actions that grossly violate the public order (part 1 of article 342 of the Criminal Code), as well as for violence.

Vitold Ashurak. Photo –

He is charged for participation in the August 9 protests. On October 13th he celebrated his 50th anniversary behind bars. His friends made a firework display for him under the walls of Lida prison. While in custody Ashurak’s eyesight significantly deteriorated.

The trial over the activist began on 28 December. On that day a lot of people came to support Vitold: relatives, associates and acquaintances. However, Judge Maksim Filatau declared the trial closed, allegedly “due to the threat to state security”. The judge did not explain what kind of threat the open trial posed and what kind of state security it was.

Chairman of the court Viachaslau Matsuk also refused to explain the reasons for the closed hearing, calling it the right of the judge. This is not the first case in the Lida District Court: the same judge held a closed trial in the criminal case of Yauhen Vinchy, who was also accused of violence against a police officer (Art. 364 of the Criminal Code).

“Vitold’s trial was closed, so we do not know the circumstances of the case. But we view such a harsh sentence as pressure on Lida civil society, which is quite active in its region. However, today the courtroom could not accommodate all those willing to support Vitold, so we can be sure that Lida activists are not intimidated and are ready to fight against the lawlessness in our country,” said the head of the Movement “For Freedom” Yury Hubarevich in his commentary to Belsat.

Indeed, more than 50 people have come to the sentencing to support Vitold Ashurak: supporters, relatives and friends. There are those who came especially from Minsk and Homiel.