Minsk City Court has upheld the sentences of Irina Khalip, Pavel Severinets and Sergei Martselev.
Irina Khalip, a Russian journalist of “Novaya Gazeta” and the wife of presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov, declared in court that she did not consider the pronounced sentence to be fair. “I still cannot believe that I was convicted because I performed my professional duty. We both, as journalists, cannot be judged for the fulfillment of professional duties. So I was tried as the wife of Sannikov. I think the sentence is extremely unfair, and I ask that it be annulled due to lack of evidence of any crime in my actions,” she said.
Severinets noted that in any country the main task of law enforcement bodies is to ensure the safety of people who have gathered at a peaceful demonstration. “The majority of the participants in the protest on the Square have been judged for the fact that they went on to the roadway of the Avenue. I thought and still think that this was the best solution, as Belarusians remember what Nemiga is like and how it could end up with crowding,” said Severinets.
He stressed that he could not decribe the actions of the authorities on 19 December as anything other than illegal, reports BelaPAN.
His lawyer, Vadim Mushinskii, said that an incorrect and incomplete assessment had been given by the trial court of the evidence presented, and that was the reason for passing an unfair sentence. According to the lawyer, apart from the fact that Severinets attended the rally on 19 December, the submissions prove nothing; in particular there is no evidence that Severinets actively appealed to people to disturb public order. Mushinskii said that it was unfair to criminally punish people for a short break in the operation of public transport and for going out on to the roadway.
Anna Bakhtina, the lawyer of Khalip, said that during the preliminary investigation and trial, the principles of objective and impartial consideration of all circumstances had not been respected. She stressed that literally a few days after the events on the Square, the film “Iron on Glass” had been made by ”Channel One” of Belarusian Television, which became the basis of allegations, including those against Khalip. Bakhtina noted that the film included operational and investigative materials, the disclosure of which is unacceptable to the sentencing court. At the same time, lawyers who had reported to journalists on some of the circumstances of the case had been deprived of their licence, the barrister stressed.
The lawyer’s speech was very emotional. In the end, she recalled that “the time will come when we again return to this matter, and it will be considered in the way it ought to be, when all the evidence has been taken into account”. “I want you to consider everything objectively and make only a correct and fair decision, namely that in which we ask in appeal,” said Bakhtina.
At the end of her speech, those present in the courtroom applauded loudly. The judge Stepurko ordered them to stop, saying, “You’re not at a meeting.”
The prosecuting counsel, Melnik, again declared that the guilt of Khalip, Severinets and Martselev had ben fully proven and there were no grounds for annulment. The speech of Bakhtina, especially the last part, could be perceived as a threat, in the “personal opinion” of the prosecutor.
Irina Khalip was sentenced to two years imprisonment with a suspension of two years, Pavel Severinets to three years of imprisonment in an open type correctional facility, Sergei Marzel to two years imprisonment with probation for two years.