Syarhei Tsikhanouski, a popular vlogger and head of Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s initiative group, is facing a new charge of ‘obstructing the course of elections’ (Art. 191 of the Criminal Code), human rights centre reports with reference to ‘a reliable source’.
According to the human rights defenders, the charge may stem from a complaint that Lidziya Yarmoshyna, Head of the Central Election Commission (CEC), reportedly filed against Tsikhanouski in early June.
The top official appealed to the Investigative Committee with the request to check whether there had been elements of crime set out in Art.191 in Tsikhanouski’s actions. In she blamed him for impeding the work of the CEC.
In her opinion, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s supporters have repeatedly violated electoral law; the pickets during which they collect signatures for her presidential nomination, were not peaceful as the picketers launched threats. Yarmoshyna also claimed that Tsikhanouski publicly threatened to kill her during pre-election pickets.
“I am facing threats in connection with performing my professional duties,” she said.
Over the last three weeks, thousands of people throughout the country have been lining up to put their signatures for ‘any on the list but for the incumbent president’. Especially large queues formed after Syarhei Tsikhanouski, a trustee and husband of Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, had been detained in late May.
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.
Later, the Belarusian Investigative Committee stated that Syarhei Tsikhanouski and nine 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. Belarusian human rights watchdogs recognised eight defendants in the case as political prisoners.
On Tuesday, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya said she received an anonymous call. An unknown person warned her against continuing the campaign, threatening with imprisonment and taking the children away.