79-year-old Belarusian may be put in mental home for alleged insult of president Lukashenka

The 79-year-old Alyaksandr Lapitski is not a civil activist. He had been unknown to a wide audience before a court in Minsk found him guilty of insulting government officials, judges and president Alyaksandr Lukashenka and sent him for compulsory psychiatric care. According to the examination, the pensioner has a chronic mental disorder, naviny.by reports.

But a numer of Belarusian human rights activists believe that Mr Lapitski should be recognised political prisoner, because he man was punished for criticizing the authorities and voicing his protest.

Indeed, Lapitski’s e-mails to officials did contain vulgar words and expressions, human rights defender Aleh Vouchak says. Some of the letters were about the circumstances of the criminal case of his son who was accused of beating his wife.

“The sentence recites the insults but fails to clearly define which of Belarusian officials was their target. Of course, Lapitski used vulgar expressions, but, in my opinion, it is an administrative offense rather than a crime for which an elderly person should be forcibly treated in a mental hospital,” Vouchak stresses.

It should be noted that the pensioner began to monitor the investigation into the explosion in Minsk metro in 2011. In his blog, he repeatedly said that it was the President of Belarus and other officials who were to blame for the tragedy, and explained why he was thinking so.

Tatsiana Ravyaka, the head of the Belarusian Human Rights House, noted that the proposal to declare Mr Lapitski a political prisoner is premature. The sentence has not come into force yet, and the convict is still  at liberty.

“However, if he is sent to a mental hospital for compulsory treatment, we will consider the question of his recognition as a political prisoner because the standard of freedom of expression was violated,” she said.

Lapitski’s defense lawyer is going appeal against the verdict.