A district judge in Minsk on Thursday sentenced a young opposition activist, Vasil Parfyankow, to four years in a high-security correctional institution for taking part in a post-election protest in the Belarusian capital city on December 19, 2010, finding him guilty of participation in a "mass riot" under Part Two of the Criminal Code’s Article 293.
Judge Volha Kamar of the Frunzenski District Court also ruled that the 27-year-old Parfyankow should pay 14 million rubels ($4,660) for the damage that he allegedly did to the House of Government in Independence Square during the protest.
Mr. Parfyankow, who was the first of more than 40 people charged in a so-called riot case to stand trial, insisted that he had really participated in the protest in Independence Square on the night of December 19, but had not broken any doors or windows of the House of Government.
He said that he had been in the square to display his protest and come up to the building "under the emotional influence of the crowd" in order to find out what was going on there. According to him, he had found himself pressed against a door and managed to get out only after presidential candidates Vital Rymashewski, Andrey Sannikaw and Mikalay Statkevich urged the crowd not to break doors and windows and to step off the building.
A witness confirmed Mr. Parfyankow’s account of the incident.
The public prosecutor in the trial, Anton Zaharowski, demanded a six-year prison sentence for the accused.
Ihar Papkowski, the defense lawyer for Mr. Parfyankow, told reporters after the trial that he did not consider his client’s guilt proven. The prosecution’s video evidence examined at the hearing did not show that Mr. Parfyankow had broken doors or windows or had any tools in his hands for doing that, the lawyer said. He pointed out that he would definitely appeal the sentence.
Mr. Parfyankow was a member of the campaign team of candidate Uladzimir Nyaklyayew during the past presidential race. He was arrested on January 4 and placed in the Minsk city police department’s detention center on Valadarskaha Street.
Mr. Parfyankow was one on a list of 20 men that the government’s mouthpiece newspaper Sovetskaya Belorussiya published on January 15 under the heading "They Stormed House of Government." The newspaper alleged that Mr. Parfyankow had "directly participated in acts of wanton destruction, carried out an assault on a public building, the House of Government, broken glass and doors, beat police officers with items for household use, and called on the crowd to be active."