Authorities raided journalists and human rights defenders on a massive scale; only state media are allowed to attend high-profile court hearings; the proposed law on foreign agents may be passed this spring
16 February 2021 | BYHelp-Mediagroup
Authorities raid journalists and human rights defenders on a massive scale
Today, about 20 journalists and human rights defenders across the country were raided and searched. According to the representatives of the Investigative Committee, this was done “in order to discover the circumstances of protest activity financing”.
Searches with confiscation of equipment and documents affected almost all the leaders of the independent Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) – BAJ chairman Andrei Bastunts and both his deputies Aleh Aheyau and Barys Haretski, as well as other employees of the organization. The office of BAJ was also raided and searched.
The office of the Viasna human rights centre was raided and searched in the presence of Ales Bialiatski, the head of the organization. Searches also took place in all the regional offices of Viasna, with the exception of Hrodna and Vitsebsk. Dzmitry Salauiou from Minsk and Barys Bukhel from Mahiliou are reported arrested.
A police search took place at the independent trade union of radio and electronic industry workers. Trade union employees were not arrested.
Human rights activist and the co-founder of BY_Help and BYSOL initiatives Andrej Stryzhak told about a house search in his rented apartment in Homel. Today a search was conducted at his parents’ house in the town of Rechytsa, an old phone and a hard drive were confiscated.
A military special forces captain confessed in court to the murder of Henadz Shutau; high and low profile court hearings; there is no place to talk about legitimacy and justice
In Brest, the court started the trial of the criminal case against Aliaksandr Kardziukou, who was with Henadz Shutau on 11 August 2020 when Shutau was fatally wounded in the head. It is now known that the shot was fired by Raman Haurylau, a military special forces captain, but in this case he is considered a victim. He claims that in defense he first fired a shot in the air, and then decided to shoot “in the area of the left forearm”. However, the bullet somehow ended up in the back of Shutau’s head. The judge asked Haurylau why he was not aiming at Shutau’s leg. The “victim” replied that he was afraid to hurt himself. When asked if he could have avoided shooting Shutau in the back of the head and thus saving his life, Haurylau said: “I did all I could. I wasn’t feeling very well.”
The investigation into the death of Aliaksandr Vikhor is complete. Criminal case initiation was denied. 25-year-old Aliaksandr Vikhor was arrested in the evening of 9 August 2020 in Homel. His family were looking for him for three days. Only when his relatives arrived at the police station to file a missing person report they found out that Vikhor has been dead since 11 August.
The court considered an appeal from the citizen of Switzerland, Natallia Hershe. In December 2020 she was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for tearing off a balaklava from a riot policeman. The sentence remains unchanged.
The court trials of skiers arrested in Maladzechna last weekend began. Two women among the arrested were fined by the court.
Musicians Dzianis Tarasenka and Aliaksandr Kavaliou were sentenced to 15 days’ detention. They were arrested on 13 February at a concert near Smaliavichy.
The trial of the famous advertiser Vlad Saveliev (Sergei Kostyukevich) has began. He was arrested for participating in a Sunday protest back in September 2020. At first he was tried under an administrative article. But on the day he was supposed to be released he was arrested again, then under a criminal article, without being allowed to leave the gates of the detention center. Now he is accused of allegedly leading the march of protesters and interfering with the functioning of the public transport.
Court hearing of the cases of journalists Darya Chultsova and Katsiaryna Bakhvalava (pen name Andreyeva) continues. They were reporting in a live stream from the Square of Changes on 15 November 2020. The court hearing was supposed to be public, but only representatives of the state TV channels were allowed into the court room.
Independent journalists were denied accreditation for Viktar Babaryka’s trial. The first hearing was attended only by the representatives of the state media and Russian news agencies.
Following the example of Russia, Belarusian authorities also began to develop a law on foreign agents
A draft law on foreign agents is under development. Individuals and organisations which receive funding for political activities from abroad are proposed to be equated with foreign agents. It is likely that the law will be passed already this spring.
For more information on the events of 16 February 2021, please visit Infocenter Free Belarus 2020: