Dmitrii Bondarenko sentenced to 2 years in prison

(Updated) The coordinator of "European Belarus" and member of Andrei Sannikov's team has been judged after a one day case.

For taking part in a protest against the falsified results of presidential elections on 19 December 2010, Dmitrii Bondarenko, the personal aide of Belarusian presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov, has been convicted of “organizing group activities that severely breach public order”.

The judge of the Pervomaiskii District Court of Minsk, Tatyana Revinskaya, sentenced the well known politician and human rights activist to 2 years in a “ordinary regime” penal colony. Simanovskii, the State Prosecutor, asked that Bondarenko be sentenced to three years of “ordinary regime”.

Dmitrii Bondarenko admitted that he had participated in a mass rally on 19 December. On the remaining counts, Bondarenko pleaded not guilty. In his closing remarks, the defendant said that the protesters had exercised their constitutional right to peaceful assembly. Belarusians have protested against rigged elections, and the time will come when many will ask: why did he not protest?

In the words of Dmitrii Bondarenko, the present losses – up to billions of dollars – have been caused in the country by those who have put presidential candidates behind bars and hindered the country from a democratic and political way out of the economic crisis.

In the court case, no substantial evidence of the “guilt” of Bondarenko was presented.

Written materials in the criminal case partly consisted of printouts of telephone conversations of Bondarenko with Andrei Sannikov, Natalya Radina, Viktor Ivashkevich and others.

Several audio recordings of conversations were listened to and a video clip was watched. On one of them, Bondarenko and Andrei Sannikov together shouted: “It is time to change the bald tyre!” Bondarenko confirmed this, declaring that it is necessary to change the state mechanism, and economic developments only prove what the presidential candidates said in their programmes.

Of all the witnesses who were questioned, only one traffic policeman recognised Bondarenko . All the others did not see him during the protest on 19 December. Under questioning, the traffic policemen claimed that the participants in the protest went on to the road of Independence Avenue, thus obstructing the movement of traffic.

Not all the prosecution witnesses testified identically. The witness Dubrovskii, a traffic policeman, said the protesters were behaving more peacefully.

The witness Babaryko, a former traffic policeman, said that traffic police officers did not use a loudspeaker to warn protesters. He also said that the demonstrators had not broken through a cordon of traffic policemen.

The witness did not hear that any of the candidates had ordered the crowd to commit unlawful acts.

At the trial, Dmitrii Bondarenko said that he had serious health problems: acute ulcer, gout and a disease of the spine.

Apart from that, he said, it had been noticed that he had partial paralysis of his right leg.

“During the period of detention, my health has deteriorated,” Bondarenko stressed.

Dmitrii Bondarenko was arrested on the night of 19 to 20 December 2010, after a crackdown on the peaceful protest against the falsified results of the presidential elections, and he was put in a KGB jail.

In the course of the so-called investigation, the article cited in the charge of the coordinator of “European Belarus” was changed to the “organization and preparation of activities that breach public order or active participation in them” (Article 342, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus).