Opposition politicians and human rights defenders have slammed Tuesday’s conviction of Andrey Kim and other youths over January demonstrations as politically motivated.
“These proceedings were political from day one,” Anatol Lyabedzka, leader of the United Civic Party, said in an interview with BelaPAN. “The authorities have one weapon – fear – in their fight against dissent. They think that if one is sent to prison, thousands will be afraid. This works to a certain degree.”
He stressed that the case against Mr. Kim, who was accused of committing violence against a police officer, had in fact collapsed during the court proceedings but he had been given an 18-month prison sentence nevertheless.
Human rights defender Valyantsin Stefanovich echoed the opinion, saying that video evidence presented in court had not proved Mr. Kim’s guilt.
The guilt of the other nine youths, all of whom were accused of public disorder, was not proved either, he said. “The event was peaceful, people did not disturb the public peace and violate the rights of others, did not pose a threat to national security. I view this case as unfounded prosecution,” Mr. Stefanovich said.
Dzmitry Dashkevich, a leader of the Malady Front opposition youth group who spent more than a year in prison, said that the case was intended to intimidate the public ahead of this year’s parliamentary elections. “This has been done to make all those who are not afraid to take to the streets and defend their convictions know that they can face punishment for this not only under the Administrative but also under the Criminal Code,” he said.
Opposition politician Vyachaslaw Siwchyk hit out at the judge for rejecting requests by the accused to examine more witnesses for the defense and expelling observers and even some of the accused from the courtroom. “The case is unambiguously political and even the judge did not hide the fact,” he said.
Mr. Kim was sentenced to 18 months in a minimum security correctional institution. Seven of the accused – Mikhail Pashkevich, Alyaksey Bondar, Artsyom Dubski, Ales Straltsow, Ales Charnyshow, Mikhail Kryvaw and Tatsyana Tsishkevich – were sentenced to two years’ “corrective labor at the place of residence,” which means that a certain amount will be deducted from their income during the two years.
The remaining two defendants, Uladzimir Syarheyew and Anton Koypish, were each slapped with a fine of 100 times the Base Rate, which currently total 3,500,000 rubels ($1,640).