The people's blogger had been in Zhodzina for the fourth month, before that he was in the pre-trial detention center # 1 on Valadarski Street in Minsk.
Recently, the people's blogger Siarhei Tsikhanouski was charged with “inciting social enmity,” just before the expiration of the term of detention on previous charges, tut.by writes.
Tsikhanouski has been in the pre-trial detention center for six months now, and he should have either been released, or his case should have been sent to the court. However, the investigating authorities took a different path - now the political prisoner has a new charge, which allows them to continue holding him in custody - up to 18 months. Lawyer Viktar Matskevich visited Siarhei in the detention center last week, saying that he is extremely outraged by the new charges. The defenders did not disclose the details of the case: they were asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
So, Siarhei Tsikhanouski was charged under three articles of the Criminal Code:
- "organizing actions that grossly violate public order" (Part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code is punishable by a fine, or arrest, or restraint of liberty for up to three years, or imprisonment for the same period) in connection with the events in Hrodna on May 29, where Tsikhanouski was detained;
- "obstruction of the work of the Central Election Commission" (Article 191 of the Criminal Code, punishable by community service, or a fine, or correctional labor for up to two years, or restraint of liberty for up to three years, or imprisonment for the same period) - the 'borsch-maker' Yarmoshyna reported in the media that she was recognized as a “victim” in the case, stated that “Tsikhanouski is dangerous for the state and the society”;
- “incitement of racial, national, religious or other social enmity or hatred,” committed by a group of persons or entailing the death of a person by negligence or other grave consequences (Part 3 of Article 130 of the Criminal Code, punishable by imprisonment for a term of five to twelve years).
Lawyer Natallia Matskevich examined the charges under the first two articles in detail:
- Regarding the organization of actions that grossly violate public order. The whole country had the opportunity to watch live on how on May 29 a picket was held in Hrodna to collect signatures with the participation of Siarhei Tsikhanouski. And we do not see in the live stream footage any group actions that grossly violate public order, or clear disobedience to the lawful demands of a police officer, not to mention the fact that there were no violations of traffic movement, or the work of institutions and organizations, which are signs of a crime under Article 342. In the second case, initiated by Yarmoshyna's statement that Tsikhanouski allegedly threatened her, saying at a picket in Mahiliou on May 27 that “there will be a wonderful picket near Lidziya Yarmoshyna’s house in Minsk, too, and we’ll visit her at the same time”. You don't have to be a great lawyer to understand that a threat is a promise to do harm. And Tsikhanouski is accused of having announced that the next picket to collect signatures will take place at Yarmoshyna's house, and the picket is legal, for which no permission is required, including in an unauthorized place - and they claim that was a threat. In my opinion, there is no threat here either legally, or psychologically, or linguistically.
As for the new charge, the Investigatory Committee stated in July 2020 that “a criminal case has been initiated against Tsikhanouski under Part 3 of Article 130 of the Criminal Code on the facts of deliberate actions aimed at inciting other social hostility, calls for violent and aggressive actions towards law-enforcement officers." The precise wording of the final charges is still unknown: they made the lawyers sign a nondisclosure agreement from, and there are no details on the Investigatory Committee's website either.
The attempts to prosecute for inciting hatred against the law-enforcement agencies as a social group were made earlier, for example, in the case of activist Dzmitry Paliyenka, but in court the prosecutor dropped the charges in this part. Belarusian human rights activists noted the controversy of the arguments that the police is a separate social group, since employees are not united by national, ethnic and other characteristics that distinguish them from employees in other spheres.
At the end of last week, lawyer Viktar Matskevich visited Tsikhanouski in the pre-trial detention center in Zhodzina. He described Siarhei's reaction to the new charges rather succinctly: "Extremely indignant."
Tsikhanouski has been in Zhodzina for the fourth month, before that he was in the pre-trial detention center #1 on Valadarski Street in Minsk, where he was in the punishment cell and seriously lost weight. According to the defenders, the confinement conditions in Zhodzina are better.
“Siarhei is alone in the cell, this is an agreement with the administration so that there are no provocations,” explained lawyer Natallia Matskevich. - Whom does he see? Employees who come to check him in the morning and in the evening, lawyers who come twice a week. They take him out for a walk, but there he is also alone. He was given a TV set, and one newspaper comes by subscription. Despite the limited contacts with the outside world, he very adequately perceives everything that happens outside the walls of the prison, keeping abreast of all the news, including what his wife is doing. I must say that letters come to him, including from strangers, he is very inspired that people do not forget about him.
Article 127 of the Criminal Procedural Code of the Republic of Belarus states that an extension of the term of detention for more than six months is allowed only in relation to persons accused of committing grave or especially grave crimes.
Siarhei Tsikhanouski is recognized as a political prisoner.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya last saw her husband six months ago, on the eve of his trip to Hrodna. Siarhei has had no meetings with his wife or other relatives. According to Sviatlana, they do not correspond, they receive all information about each other through lawyers. Siarhei sometimes sees stories about Sviatlana on the Belarusian television.