Alyaksandr Barazenka, a young opposition activist who was sentenced to a one-year "restricted freedom" in December 2008, has been granted a pardon under an amnesty law enacted earlier this year.
"On August 12, I was summoned to the Pinsk City Prosecutor's Office where I was told that I had been included in the amnesty,"Mr. Barazenka told BelaPAN on Friday.
On December 9, 2008, a district judge in Minsk found the then 20-year-old Barazenka guilty of "active participation in group actions grossly disturbing the public peace" under Part One of the Criminal Code’s Article 342 in connection with an unsanctioned demonstration that was staged in downtown Minsk on January 10, 2008 in protest against the government’s crackdown on small vendors.
Although the one-year restricted freedom sentence imposed on him was non-custodial, it required him to stay at home between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weekdays and never leave his home city.
Since the accused had spent 44 days in a detention center, his actual restricted freedom term was 277 days, as each day spent in pretrial detention by a person sentenced to restricted freedom counts as two.
Mr. Barazenka was charged over the demonstration in early 2008 and placed on a police wanted list after he had fled prosecution. During the trial of other youths charged in the case, Mr. Barazenka was studying at a university in Wroclaw under the Polish government’s Kastus Kalinowski educational assistance program. He claimed that he did not receive any summons or notification of his prosecution and learned about it from the Internet and his associates.
The young man was arrested following his voluntary appearance at the Minsk city police department on October 27 for questioning.
In 2007, he was expelled as a first-year student from Belarusian State University following his participation in a protest against the abolition of students’ privilege of paying half the fare.
A total of 13 youths were charged under the Criminal Code in connection with the January demonstration. In the spring of 2008, nine of them were sentenced to two years’ restricted freedom, a seventeen-year-old received an 18-month restricted freedom term and two young men were heavily fined.
In May 2009, Amnesty International granted "prisoner of conscience" status to Mr. Barazenka and 10 other youths who had been given restricted freedom sentences over the January 10, 2008 demonstration.