Sentences to post-election protesters pronounced
On 5 May the October district court in Minsk found guilty four accused of participation in “mass disorder” on 19 December. All were sentenced to 3 to 4 years of imprisonment.
The court handed down tough sentences, as expected. All the accused were found guilty of the participation in “mass disorder” (under Part 2 of Article 294 of the Criminal Code), the charges envisage prison term from 3 to 8 years. Other accused, tried on the same charges earlier, also were sentenced to 3 to 4 years high security prison term. In all these cases, the sentences follow the pattern outlined earlier, i.e. those directly participated in the demonstration are punished the most severely, all of them are active young people of about 30 years old.
Among those recently sentenced to 4 years of prison was the Deputy Head of the Young Front A. Kirkevich, who was not detained during the demonstration on December 19, but much later, on 29 January. Earlier, on 24 March the leader of Malady Front Dashkevich, who was arrested on 18 December before the rally, was sentenced to 2 years of imprisonment under Part 3 of Article 339 of the Criminal Code (particularly malicious hooliganism). It is obvious that with their sentences courts aimed at neutralizing the leaders of the well-known and active youth organization.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.