New political sentence in Belarus

An activist from Gomel Yuri Rubtsov must serve a 1,5 years sentence in a correctional facility. This decision was adopted on November 21st by Minsk City Court regarding an appeal to a previous decision of the court of the Soviet district of Minsk.

According to a previous court decision of October 6th, 2014, Yuri Rubtsov was convicted for allegedly insulting a judge.

The reason for the charges and the sentence was a statement by a judge Kiryl Poluleha, who claimed that at the time of the administrative court hearing on April 28th of this year, Rubtsov had allegedly insulted him as a judge.

Yuri Rubtsov became widely known in Belarus a year ago due to his consistent protests, which he expressed primarily through T-shirts. Thus, in November 2013 during a demonstration he was arrested for a T-shirt on which was written “Lukashenko, go away!”. After that, for the last year the activist has been systematically persecuted, he went through several administrative arrests and was on a hunger strike, one of which lasted 30 days in a row.

Each time the official pretext for the arrest was not the actual T-shirt Rubtsov was wearing, but his alleged obscene language. (Which is the most common reason for the persecution of activists in Belarus. For example, a young opposition activist Pavel Vinogradov has spent 65 days in custody this year solely on charges of foul language. The only witnesses for the prosecution in similar cases are, as a rule, police officers).

It was during one of these court proceedings that the judge Poluleha heard an alleged insult by Rubtsov.

A human rights activist and a former political prisoner Ales Bialiatski stated already during the  sentencing of the first court that Rubtsov was politically persecuted and he was becoming a new political prisoner: “The trial was held behind closed doors, and all those present at the trial were from one side — police officers, who testified against him during the administrative process and, in fact,  there was no evidence of abuse of the judge, and the police officers apparently gave false testimony during the trial. Thus, the administrative court proceeding in April, which had political overtones, has turned into a criminal case, which clearly has political implications. This is a persecution of a Belarusian citizen for expressing his civic position, which is guaranteed by the Constitution. Therefore, it seems to me that here we are dealing with the process of punishment of a political opponent of the Belarusian regime. We have another political prisoner now.