On January 30, journalists and protesters faced trial in Brest. Local residentYuliya Nichyparuk was found guilty of violating the organization of mass events and fined. The situation is full of sad irony because her only fault was contributing to… modeling the snowman.
One year passed since Brest residents had started protesting against the construction of a battery factory in the city. As the city authorities do not authorize protests, people do not make speeches or chant any slogans – they just feed pigeons or carry baloons.
On January 5, activists came to the would-be plant to mark the sad anniversary. Some took their children with them; and the kids made a snowman.
“Our children made a snowman, we helped decorate it. Later I was summoned to the police station; they made a protocol under Article 23.34 of the Administrative Code. The protocol says that there was a leaflet and sticker on it. I think it is absurd. I wonder what the case will come to in court,” the woman told Belsat.
As a result, judge Syarhei Maruchak imposed a fine of 25.5 rubles on Yuliya. According to him, her actions were nothing but ‘picketing’.
“Until later, I believed that I would be acquitted, but the miracle did not happen. It is an unpleasant surprise to me that one may be persecuted for their views, that people are not allowed to express their opinion in the country. We did not do anything, we were not chanting any slogans, we were not showing any posters (though we have a right to do it), but all the same, our activity resulted in a penalty,” Yuliya said.
Moreover, judge Dzmitry Shuryn slapped a fine on two Belsat TV contributors (2,550 rubles).
Ales Lyauchuk and Milana Kharytonava have been repeatedly spotted covering the protests in Lenin Square and interviewing local residents. The journalistic duo has already had many trials over making reports about the development in Brest; the fines they have got over the past months are totalling to $8,000.
The battery plant near the city is being built in the free economic zone Brest by a Chinese corporation. The project was commissioned by iPower company. It is planned that the plant will have a full cycle of production of lead-acid batteries.
Residents of the city and surrounding villages believe that the production would harmfully impact their health and the environment. The project opponents say the construction has a number of violations, almost 37 thousand signatures against the plant were sent to Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s administration in February. But the government commission did not find any violations in the implementation of the project.