A judge of the Asipovichy District Court in the Mahilyow region on July 7 sentenced young opposition activist Artsyom Dubski to one year in a minimum security correctional institution on a charge of avoiding serving a "restricted freedom" sentence.
The member of Malady Front, a Czech-registered youth opposition group, was found guilty under the Criminal Code`s Article 415, which provides for a prison term of up to three years.
As Malady Front spokeswoman Tatsyana Shaputska explained to BelaPAN, Judge Zhanna Sharabayka of the Asipovichy District Court actually gave Mr. Dubski a six-month prison term, but since the convict had yet to serve one year of his two-year restricted freedom sentence and since two days of restricted freedom count as one day in prison, he was sentenced to spend one year in prison. The young man was arrested in the courtroom and taken into custody.
The 22-year-old Dubski is one of the young people who were prosecuted and convicted over participation in an unsanctioned demonstration that was staged in Minsk on January 10, 2008.
In April 2008, he received his two-year "restricted freedom" sentence, which required him to stay at home between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weekdays and never leave his home city. Criminal proceedings were instituted against Mr. Dubski later in the year over his failure to meet these requirements. In October 2008, Mr. Dubski moved to Ukraine to apply for political asylum in that country, but he later withdrew his application and returned to Belarus after learning that authorities were putting pressure on his mother and had taken away her adopted children.
The young man was arrested at the Homyel railroad station on February 13, 2009, when he was traveling from Russia to Minsk. On April 15, he was released on his own recognizance pending trial.
Another opposition youth, Maksim Dashuk, was convicted on the same charge on June 15. A district judge in Minsk increased the 18-month restricted freedom term that was imposed on him in May 2008 by almost a year. In sentencing the 17-year-old Maksim, the judge referred to Article 70 of the Criminal Code, which allows mandatory minimum penalties to be mitigated.
In May, Amnesty International granted "prisoner of conscience" status to Messrs. Dashuk and Dubski and nine other youths who had been given restricted freedom sentences over the January 10, 2008 demonstration.
More than 3,000 people took part in that demonstration, protesting the government`s crackdown on small businesses. They staged a rally in Minsk’s downtown Kastrychnitskaya Square and marched along Independence Avenue to the House of Government in Independence Square, where they dispersed several hours later. Almost 30 people were arrested and 23 of them were convicted under the Administrative Offenses Code.
A total of 13 youths were later charged under the Criminal Code in connection with that demonstration. Nine of them – Mikhail Pashkevich, Alyaksey Bondar, Artsyom Dubski, Alyaksandr Straltsow, Alyaksandr Charnyshow, Mikhail Kryvaw, Tatsyana Tsishkevich, Pavel Vinahradaw, and Mikhail Subach – were found guilty of "active participation in group actions grossly disturbing the public peace" and sentenced to two years’ restricted freedom without their being sent to correctional institutions.
Maksim Dashuk received an 18-month restricted freedom term and two young men, Uladzimir Syarheyew and Anton Koypish, were each fined 3,500,000 rubels ($1,640).