Belarusian Santa Clauses surrendered to prosecution agency (photo)
16 октября 2009, 14:03
A group of about 15 people protesting the Criminal Code's Article 193-1 staged a costumed procession to the building of the Prosecutor General's Office on Thursday in Minsk to confess to membership in an "unregistered association of Father Frosts," which should theoretically be punishable under the article.
The article penalizes acting on behalf of unregistered organizations. Belarusian human rights defenders and international human rights organizations have long condemned this article and repeatedly urged the Belarusian government to abolish it.
"For many years we have engaged in the following activities: organizing New Year celebrations in various places of Belarus, distributing gifts, including among legal minors, and wishing happy New Year at meetings and through the media," the group says in a statement that was delivered to the Prosecutor General's Office.
According to the statement, the "association" learned about the existence of Article 193-1 and decided to "confess" and ask Prosecutor General Ryhor Vasilevich to give "a legal assessment" to their "activities."
Among the marchers, all dressed as Father Frosts and Snow Maidens, were prominent human rights defenders Aleh Hulak, Valyantsin Stefanovich, Valery Shchukin and Yury Chavusaw.
Mr. Shchukin said that he was ready to "be punished for being a Father Frost."
Article 193-1 is unacceptable in the modern world because it can be used to penalize any group of people, Mr. Stefanovich said.
No arrests were made during the march. In an incident that occurred near the Prosecutor General's Office building, a plainclothesman grabbed photo journalist Uladzimir Hrydzin by the coat and accused him of taking pictures of a government site. The man let go of the journalist after finding no such photos in his camera.