Over 60 Belarusians stand trial over pre-election picketing

On Monday, Belarusian courts have punished more than least 60 persons for their participating in solidarity rallies that took place on June, 19.

On June 22, at least 40 persons were tried in district courts of Minsk, according to Human Rights Centre Viasna. The sum of a fine imposed ranged from $170 and $570.

In other Belarusian cities and towns, about 25 trials were held, the minimum penalty amounted to $45. In Babruysk, several persons, including a human rights activist, were sentenced to administrative arrest. In Вaranavichy, Orsha and Homiel, some defendants also got jail terms (up to 15 days).

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Journalist Alyaksandr Paznyak and Syarhei Bahrou from the local newspaper Hantsavitski Chas were detained and beaten by local police when they were covering a picket in the village of Hantsavichy. Together with several other local residents, they spent a weekend in the local police department, and on Monday, they were taken to court in Baranavichy. The judge found them guilty of disobeying an official and violating the order of holding mass events. Paznyak was sentenced to 15 days of administrative detention, and Babrou got a fine.

June, 19 was the last day to hold pre-election pickets and collect signatures for this or that wannabe presidential candidate. However, the Belarusian police brutally detained peaceful protesters throughout the country. In the Belarusian capital, picketers formed a human chain of several kilometres; people took to the streets in different parts of Minsk; many chanted ‘Set them free’, remembering Lukashenka’s might-have-been opponent Viktar Babaryka, popular blogger Syarhei Tsikhanouski, politicians Mikalai Statkevich and Pavel Seyarynets, as well as dozens of people who have been placed into custody since the beginning of the 2020 election campaign.

In pictures: OMON special forces vs peaceful protesters in Minsk

The presidential election is to take place on August, 9. Belarusian human rights defenders note the continuing trend of increasing repression eveb during the period of collecting signatures, including against the direct participants in the election, and the escalation of tensions and an atmosphere of fear in society.

The Belarusian authorities accuse the alternative candidates’ supporters of allegedly violating electoral law; in their opinion, staging rallies, holding discussions, expressing opinions should not happen during pre-election pickets. Notably, a presidential hopeful does not have to get permission from the authorities for holding such a picket.

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