No political prisoner status for man who defended protesters from ‘attackers in black’?

Three years of imprisonment for defending peaceful citizens from unknown individuals. On March 12, Svyataslau Baranovich was tried in a Minsk court.

Judge Svyatlana Bandarenka found him guilty of ‘violence against an employee of internal affairs agency’.

In March 2017, Baranovich defended the representatives of the anarchist movement from the plainclothes people who attacked the young men in the trolleybus at the Bangalore Square after the ‘non-parasites’ rally in Minsk. According to Baranovich, he decided to go to the rescue and struck the attackers several times. The incident took place in March, but Baranovich was detained only in October.

The prosecution claimed that Baranovich had knocked down a riot policeman, Artsyom Paulau. Notably, Paulau was also dressed in black civvies and had no insignia. Although the defendant pleaded guilty and the affected party had no complaints against Baranovich, the judge convicted him of the crime.

Belarusian human rights defenders have not arrived at a consensus over the verdict yet. the Human Rights Centre Viasna and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee have already said they will not recognise Baranovich as a political prisoner as the offense committed was of violent nature. However, the participants of the forum Freedom To Political Prisoners said they would definitely consider him as a prisoner of conscience. A group of human rights activists is going to ask the PACE to study the case Baranovych and treat him like a political prisoner.

Mikalai Statkevich, a former presidential candidate and political prisoner, is set to demand the release of Svyataslau Baranovich during the celebration of Freedom Day in Minsk. The politician is going to urge the authorities to free other prisoners of conscience, voice the problems of the country and the threats to its independence.

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