Mixed Message from Minsk - Politics & Civil Society Digest

Belarus authorities send a mixed message about their willingness to soften repressions against their opponents. On the one hand, nine participants of December 2011 protests against falsification of elections were pardoned last week.

On the other hand, criminal investigation proceedings are now under way against two other participants of the December protests, including a prominent opposition figure. Instead of closing two leading opposition newspapers, Nasha Niva and Narodnaya Volya, Belarusian courts imposed fines against them.

POLITICS

Lukashenka grants pardon to nine Ploscha protesters. On August 11 Alexander Lukashenka signed a decree to pardon nine people convicted on the mass riot case of the Ploscha events on December 19.Among them are Dzmitry Drozd, Artsyom Hrybkow, Syarhey Kazakow,  Yawhen Sakret, Uladzimir Yaromenak.  Uladzimir Khamichenka was also released. He is widely believed to have been planted among protesters to provoke them into smashing windows in the House of Government during the December 19 demonstration in Minsk.

Two additional Ploscha participants may face prison terms. The case of a new defendant Svyatoslav Baranovich has been directed to the court. Baranovich, a participant of Ploscha events, is charged under Article 293-2 of Criminal Code (participation in mass riot), provided from 3 to 8 years of imprisonment. Criminal investigation on the case of UCP leader Anatoly Lebedko has been reinstated. Lebedko is suspected on criminal case on the Ploscha events on December-19, 2010.

In total, 43 people were convicted under articles of the Criminal Code for organization or participation in the Ploscha events on December-19. 30 of them got various prison terms (from 2 to 6 years), including three ex-presidential candidates: Andrey Sannikov (5 years), Nikolay Statkevich (6 years), Dmitriy Us (5.5 years).

Ales Bialiatsky, Head of Human Rights Centre Viasna, is in custody in Minsk since 5 August 2011. He is suspected under article 243-2 of the Criminal Code (tax evasion on a large scale). Within 10 days he must either be indicted or released. Belarusian authorities accuse Ales Bialiatsky of evading to pay taxes on Br 143.7 million (approx. $28 700) which were channeled through his personal bank account.  Human rights defenders and civil society activists began a campaign to collect pledges for the release of Ales Byalyatsky. On August 10 well-known Iranian human rights activist and lawyer Shirin Ebadi, awarded Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, joined the campaign.

Participants of the action at "Bruzgi" border crossing are to pay more than Br 4.3 million. 32 participants of protest at the border crossing in Bruzgi were ordered to pay Br 4 277 000 334 ($855) on the suit of Grodno Department of Internal Affairs (police) and Br 52 000 443 ($10) – on the suit of urban customs. These are the results of the trial which ended on 5 August in the Leninsky district court of Hrodna. The trial was held behind closed doors.

Punishment for a message in Vkontakte. On 8 August Gomel court sentenced 36-year Dmitry Shevchenko to 3 days of administrative arrest under Article 23.34 (violation of order of conducting mass events). The reason for the punishment was a message in the social network "VKontakte" where Shevchenko urged citizens to gather for an unauthorized action on Gomel central square.

Narodnaya Volya was fined of Br 14 million. Edition of Narodnaya Voly should pay Br 14 million ($ 2 800). It was decision of the Supreme Economic Court on August 8. The fine was imposed because, according to the Ministry of Information, the date was improperly put on the front page of the newspaper. Edition is not going to appeal because they do not believe in the independence of the Belarusian court.

CIVIL SOCIETY

A Week of Non-formal Education-2011. On September 24-October 2, 2011 in Belarus a Week of Non-formal Education will be held. Organizers of the 6th NFE Week put on the agenda the issue of availability of non-formal education in Belarusian regions. The organizing committee consists of the following organizations: the State Institution BelTUF, commercial training Center "Square Orange", the Association of Long-Life Education (ADOP) Representation of Association "Deutscher Volkshochschul-Verband"(Germany).

The 15th School of Young Journalists. Grodno NGO "Center “Third Sector” announces call for School of Young Journalists. Project School of Young Journalists exists since 1997. Over 14 years about 300 Grodno young people from 16-25 years studied in the School. The graduates work in Belarusian and foreign media.

4th Congress of the new Belarusian Diaspora. The Belarusian NGO "Third Way", the Estonian NGO «Valgevene Uus Tee" invite active Belarusians from around the world to participate in the socio-cultural marathon "Bridges of Solidarity with Belarus in Nordic region". The event will be held on September 14-18, 2011 in Tallinn (Estonia). During the marathon, participants will get acquainted with projects of new generation of the Belarusian Diaspora in the region, meet with prominent politicians and experts.

 

Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials provided by Pact. This digest attempts to give a richer picture of the recent political and civil society events in Belarus. It often goes beyond the hot stories already available in English-language media.

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