Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections

Праваабарончы цэнтр «Вясна» беларускі хельсінкскі камітэт

Siarhei Tsikhanouski and supporters face formal charges

Siarhei Tsikhanouski at an election picket in Hrodna. Photo:
Siarhei Tsikhanouski at an election picket in Hrodna. Photo:

Siarhei Tsikhanouski, critical vlogger and campaign chief of his wife Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s nomination group, has been officially charged under Part 1, Art. 342 of the Criminal Code (organizing group actions that grossly violate public order and are associated with obvious disobedience to the lawful demands of the authorities or have caused disruption of the activities of public transport, enterprises, institutions or organizations, or active participation in such actions in the absence of signs of a more serious crime).

If found guilty, the blogger may be imprisoned for up to 3 years.

Tsikhanouski was arrested along with seven other activists during an election picket on May 29 in Hrodna. The campaigners were detained after a controversial incident involving a police officer. All of them were later transferred to the pre-trial detention center in Minsk.

The Investigative Committee has confirmed today in its official Telegram channel that the seven men are facing “rioting” charges. The authorities also said that one of the activists was charged under Art. 364 of the Criminal Code (violence against a police officer).

The investigators argue that the election picket was an “illegal protest” resulting in two police officers receiving injuries. They also say another picketer was facing criminal charges of using violence against a law enforcement officer.

Viasna continues to stress that all the activists arrested in the case and charged under Art. 342 are eligible to be qualified as political prisoners.

“We believe that the events of May 29 in Hrodna was nothing but exercising the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression, while the participants in the picket did not commit any violent actions or disturbed public order,” Valiantsin Stefanovich said.

Earlier, the country’s human rights community called Siarhei Tsikhanouski a political prisoner, alleging a provocation on the part of the law enforcement aimed at isolating the active blogger and disrupting his wife’s successful nomination campaign.