Vitsebsk court slaps fines on supporters of might-have-been presidential contender

On June 1, there were trials of four supporters of popular vlogger Syarhei Tsikhanouski and his wife Svyatlana, reports.

On Sunday morning, Aleh Barazna, Alyaksandr Ilyinets, Alyaksei Salamanenka and Eduard Plyusnin were detained in Vitsebsk. The men helped the initiative group set up a tent and arrange a place for the people who were about to collect signatures for Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s nomination for presidency. The four residents of Vitsebsk had to spend one day in the local pre-trial detention centre.

The activists were charged with participating in an unauthorised picket which took place on May 30 near the Marco City shopping centre. According to the prosecutors, the defendants showed posters ‘Freedom to Tsikhanouski!’ and ‘No pasaran!’. However, the judges ignored the fact that the picket was legal.

Aleh Barazna got a fine of 1,080 Belarusian rubles, Eduard Plyusnin – 540 rubles, Alyaksei Salamanenka – 810. The case of Alyaksandr Ilyinets was sent back to the police for completion.

Syarhei Tsikhanouski at picket in Mahiliou, Photo: Belsat

In early May, Tsikhanouski, the author of Youtube channel Страна Для Жизни ( A Country for Life) staged meetings with the subscribers in several Belarusian cities and towns. The local authorities made attempts to thwart the events; later, many participants were detained or summoned to the police.

While serving a 15-day jail term for participating in unauthorised mass events, the blogger revealed his presidential ambitions. However, the Belarusian Central Election Commission refused to register his initiative group, referring to the alleged violation of the submission procedure. As Syarhei Tsikhanouski was in custody at that moment, all the necessary documents were signed and filed by his wife Svyatlana. Although CEC officials admitted that the candidature of Tsikhanouski met the requirements of the electoral law, he was turned down. According to them, only a person who intends to campaign for the presidency must sign the documents.

On the back of the situation, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya managed to get her initiative group registered instead; it consists of 252 members. To officially become a presidential candidate, the woman will have to collect 100,000 signatures until June, 19. The names of the candidates will be announced in mid July, and the election will be held on August, 9.

Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya publishes open letter over events in Hrodna

Last Friday, during a peaceful picket in Hrodna, the police arrested Syarhei Tsikhanouski, head of the nomination group, and at least 15 picketers. On May 30, the Interior Ministry initiated criminal investigation into an alleged act of violence against police officers.

On May 31, over 30 persons, including members of Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s initiative group and civil activists, were detained or prevented from taking part in pre-election pickets, the human rights centre Viasna reports. Notably, a wannabe presidential candidate does not have to get permission from the authorities for holding such a pre-election picket.

The representatives of Belarusian human rights organisations have recognised Syarhei Tsikhanouski as political prisoner and called on the Belarusian authorities to immediately release him.

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