Journalist Aleksandr Otroschenkov was sentenced to a 4-year restricted prison term, demonstrators Aleksandr Molchanov to 3, and Dmitry Novik to 3.5 years of restricted imprisonment.
The sentence was passed by judge Tatiana Cherkas. Attorney Molodtsova demanded 5 years of strict prison regime for all the defendants.
Aleksandr Otroschenkov was arrested on the night of December 19-20 together with hundreds of other Belarusians, and was placed in the KGB isolation prison. Just like the presidential candidates, members of their teams, and other journalists, he was accused of participating in the protest rally against the forged results of the presidential election, in compliance with article 293 of the Criminal code (organisation and participation in mass disorders). Aleksandr took part in the demonstration with a professional purpose as a journalist, but nevertheless was accused of having being involved in the so called disorders.
During the election campaign, Aleksandr Otroschenkov was the press-secretary of president candidate Andrei Sannikov. Before that, Aleksandr had been working as the press-secretary of the civic campaign “European Belarus” and during the last decade he has been one of charter97.org journalists. On 19 December, he was working from the square for the Lithuanian news portal DELFI.
The trial of Otroschenkov, Molchanov and Novik took only two days. According to human rights activists and lawyers, both videos and witnesses from the police and the KGB failed to prove the defendants’ guilt.
When Aleksandr Otroschenkov appears on the film, it is clear that he is not standing anywhere near the doors of the government building. The case data state that he kicked the doors “more than once”. But the journalist was at least 5 meters from the building; he just approached the crowd to see what was going on when he was pushed from behind.
Otroschenkov explained he had come to the demonstration in order to hear what Belarusians thought of the election. Moreover, within his cooperation with the Internet portal DELFI he was working that night providing information coverage. In this context, defender Vladimir Mushinsky regards the investigation’s charging Otroschenkov with planning to storm the building and take part in disorders, to be allegations.
According to the defender, the investigation data shows only Otroschenkov’s involvement with the opposition, and nothing more. It is unclear what the prosecution attempted to prove with it.
The video shows that Otroschenkov was standing in the crowd and observing the situation, the defender emphasized. The charges of the prosecution cannot be based on the evidence.
Aleksandr Otroschenkov was named a prisoner of consciousness by the human rights organisation Amnesty International.
Demonstrator Aleksandr Molchanov was accused of insult of the state symbols. He had allegedly pulled off two red-green flags from the KGB building and replaced them with two national white-red-white flags. According to a prosecutor, drunk Molchanov was acting as an accomplice of journalist Otroschenkov (!) and Novik, and made violent attempts to penetrate the government building. However, the trial has showed that there has never been any collusion among the defendants since they hardly know each other. They met for the first time in the court. At the square, all three of them were at different spots and had never met before 19 December.
According to Molchanov’s lawyer, his defendant’s action did not include any insult of the state flag. As for the mass disorders, Molchanov did not perform acts of violence, arsons, destructions and armed resistance, or the acts included to the article on mass disorders. The lawyer claimed that there had been no collusion and that the fact that Molchanov had been drunk was not proven.
Dmitry Novik was accused of taking part in the mass disorders as well as of armed (!) resistance to the authorities. Allegedly he had kicked the doors of the government building at least 21 times. Nevertheless, it was proven that Novik had not kicked the doors, he had only pressed the fence, and hence cannot be accused of causing damage and destroying property. The demonstrators carried no weapon, as all the witnesses testified.