Belarusian authorities soften charges against Regnum authors and patriots in White Legion case
New charges of illegal entrepreneurship have been brought against two arrested authors of Regnum Russian News Agency, Yuri Pavlovets and Sergei Shiptenko. Apparently, the authorities could requalify the criminal case against two Russian authors thereby softening the punishment (minimal penalty is a fine). Previous charges for inciting racial, ethnic or religious hatred or discord envisage 5 to 12 years in prison. Hence, the law enforcement has attached economic component to the persecution against Regnum authors. Regarding defendants in the White Legion case, the law enforcement has dropped charges for preparations for mass riots and supported charges for creating an illegal armed group. Charges in the White Legion case also envisage a milder punishment – at best, restricted freedom. Altogether, under the pressure of the international community and civil society, the Belarusian authorities have apparently softened charges against defendants in both cases, enabling convictions without incarceration.
During searches of social and "green" activists and anarchists, law enforcement has seized computers, mobile phones and publications. The authorities have also exerted additional pressure on supporters of unauthorized street protests and independent lawyers, who represented defendants in the White Legion case. The security services have stepped up the persecution of opponents before the street protests announced by the opposition. Apparently, the Belarusian authorities aspire that participants in street protests would reduce in number and that the low interest of the population to socio-political agenda before the local election campaign would retain.