Sentences to post-election protesters pronounced
On 5 May the October district court in Minsk found guilty four accused of participation in “mass disorder” on 19 December. All were sentenced to 3 to 4 years of imprisonment.
The court handed down tough sentences, as expected. All the accused were found guilty of the participation in “mass disorder” (under Part 2 of Article 294 of the Criminal Code), the charges envisage prison term from 3 to 8 years. Other accused, tried on the same charges earlier, also were sentenced to 3 to 4 years high security prison term. In all these cases, the sentences follow the pattern outlined earlier, i.e. those directly participated in the demonstration are punished the most severely, all of them are active young people of about 30 years old.
Among those recently sentenced to 4 years of prison was the Deputy Head of the Young Front A. Kirkevich, who was not detained during the demonstration on December 19, but much later, on 29 January. Earlier, on 24 March the leader of Malady Front Dashkevich, who was arrested on 18 December before the rally, was sentenced to 2 years of imprisonment under Part 3 of Article 339 of the Criminal Code (particularly malicious hooliganism). It is obvious that with their sentences courts aimed at neutralizing the leaders of the well-known and active youth organization.
Last week, Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei participated in the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Eastern Partnership and Visegrad Group initiative hosted by Warsaw. The Belarusian FM emphasized Belarus' interest in cooperation in the transport sector, which could be due to Belarus’ desire to export electricity surplus after Belarus finished construction of the nuclear power plant in Ostrovets. Minsk expressed concerns about Warsaw’s stance on the Belarusian NPP, as it refused to buy electricity from Belarus and supported Vilnius’ protest on this issue. Following accusations by the Belarusian leadership and the state media against western states, including Poland, of training "nationalist militants", Minsk did not agree on the visit of the European Parliament deputies from Lithuania and Germany to Belarus and to the NPP construction site near Ostrovets in particular. In addition, the Belarusian authorities have stepped up efforts to enforce education in Russian in Polish-language schools in Grodno and Vaukavysk. Should a rift in Belarusian-Polish relations persist, the Belarusian authorities are likely to step up the pressure on the Polish-speaking minority in Belarus.