Beaten by police, fined in court: Belsat TV cameraman found guilty of disobedience at local elections

Belsat TV cameraman Andrus Kozel has been on trial in Tsentralny district court in Minsk on Wednesday. He was accused of disobedience to the police.

Judge Ivan Kastsyan considered his case which was sent back to the police on February, 19.

As reported earlier, Andrus Kozel was severely beaten by police while observing the election process at one of Minsk polling stations on February, 18. The policemen broke the glass in the door to the polling station with Andrus’ head when they were detaining him.

According to the police, as Andrus Kozel ‘ignored their demand not to film the count of votes, offered resistance to a police officer, grabbed the officer by his uniform’, they decided to use force against him. Notably, the journalist said he had been punched in the head four times. The report also notes that he ‘damaged a glass door with his foot’.

“They hit me on the head, ribs and kidneys. Now I have a headache, they refused to provide no medical assistance and ignored all my requests. I was bleeding,” Kozel told Belsat.

Policeman Uladzislau Bushynski, who battered the journalist, was witnessing in court. In accordance to his version, Kozel filmed during the count of votes, ignored his demand to take the camera away, then started to offer resistance and wanted to hit him. When the lawyer asked Bushynski what way Kozel’s filming hampered the count, and whether he obeyed when receiving illegal orders, the policeman failed to give a clear answer.

“After the case had been ‘brushed up’ by the police, an interesting wording about ‘confidentiality in counting of votes’ appeared in it. Moreover, I got a reply from Central Election Commission chairperson Lidziya Yarmoshyna, which states that one is not allowed to film it,” Kozel stressed.

Election observer Frantsishak Dzyadou also gave testimony. In his opinion, Kozel was not able to offer resistance because he was rounded up. The commission were not good at the electoral law, he added. Dzyadou tried to lodge two complaints, but they were not even accepted.

He wanted to take some pictures at the polling station, but the chairman of the commission warned against it: “If you do it, you will be lying on the floor just like him!”

“Apparently, the demand to stop filming was illegal, since the Electoral Code does not prohibit it. The requirement to leave the station was also illegal,” lawyer Syarhei Zikratski stressed.

Despite all this, Andrus Kozel was found guilty. Judge Ivan Kastsyan imposed a fine of BYN 735 on him.