Picks of the week
On July 30, eleven people were convicted of “illegal protesting” and “disorderly conduct” after on July 28 they came to the KGB headquarters in Minsk to file petitions requesting a release on bail of arrested presidential nominee Viktar Babaryka. Some forty petitioners and a dozen reporters were detained without a cause shortly after they arrived at the scene.
As a result, nine detainees were sentenced to up to 15 days of detention. The outcomes of several more trials are yet unknown.
The Belarusian authorities are purposefully preventing foreign reporters from coming to cover the August 9 presidential election, according to the Belarusian Association of Journalists.
At least 25 journalists working with foreign media say their accreditation bids have not been reviewed in due time by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As a result, foreign journalists cannot come to Belarus, while working without permission is punishable by heavy fines. Many of them have previously covered major political events in the country and received accreditation from the MFA.
The authorities’ failure to react to legitimate requests from foreign reporters violates both national laws and the country’s international obligations, BAJ said. Given that neither PACE nor OSCE ODIHR will observe the election, and the rights of domestic observers have been drastically curtailed, the decision to prevent foreign journalists from coming to Belarus appears to be another step taken by the authorities in order to minimize the transparency of the crucial vote.
At least thirteen people were arrested on charges of using violence against police officers and breaching public order during a protest held on July 14 in Minsk, when several thousand people took to the streets to protest the authorities’ decision to remove the then-presidential nominees Viktar Babaryka and Valery Tsapkala from the election.
Over 300 protesters were detained. Dozens were subsequently fined or sentenced to short prison terms.
According to eyewitnesses and media reports, the police used excessive violence, which sparked backlash from some of the demonstrators.
Anton Shumau, Uladzislau Ustsin, Uladzimir Khamichkou, Anton Valavik, Spartak Sirenka, Illia Turkou, Illia Fren, Hleb Hatouka, and Yauhen K. are awaiting formal charges. All of them, except Sirenka, remain in custody.