Updated at 17:20,15-01-2020

Rights activist Bandarenka gets three years in prison

Vyachaslaw BUDKEVICH, Artsyom SHRAYBMAN, Naviny.by

Judge Ala Abakunchyk of the Kastrychnitski District Court in Minsk on Tuesday sentenced prominent human rights defender Andrey Bandarenka to three years in a medium-security correctional institution.

The 41-year-old leader of a prisoner rights group called Platform Innovation was found guilty of hooliganism and malicious hooliganism.

The judge handed down a four-year prison sentence to Mr. Bandarenka but ruled that the term should be reduced by one year under this year's amnesty program.

The public prosecutor had demanded five years in prison for the rights activist.

Mr. Bandarenka was accused of punching young man Artur Yavorski in the face during an argument outside a restaurant in Minsk on February 5.

In addition, the prosecution insisted that Mr. Bandarenka attacked two women, a mother and daughter, near his apartment on March 27. He allegedly attacked them again inside a police station hours later.

In his final speech, Mr. Bandarenka apologized to the women but stressed that the gravity of his actions was magnified by the prosecution.

Referring to the incident where he allegedly attacked Mr. Yavorski, the activist suggested that the entire incident had been orchestrated to send him to prison.

Mr. Bandarenka was arrested by police officers on April 1 and has since been held in Detention Center No. 1 on Valadarskaha Street in the Belarusian capital city.

Registered by the justice ministry in December 2012, Platform Innovation is the de-facto successor to Platforma, a prisoner rights organization closed down by a court in late 2012 under a suit filed by tax authorities.

Mr. Bandarenka founded Platforma shortly after spending nearly two years in prison for a crime that he did not commit.

He was arrested in May 2009 and sentenced to seven and a half years in prison later that year. In March 2011, the Minsk City Court found Mr. Bandarenka innocent, overturning his conviction and ordering his immediate release.

Mr. Bandarenka is the winner of the 2013 Human Rights Defender of the Year award of Belarus’ leading human rights groups.

Andrey Bandarenka set to appeal prison sentence

Andrey Bandarenka, leader of a prisoner rights group called Platform Innovation, is expected to file an appeal against his prison sentence.

Mr. Bandarenka’s lawyer, Darya Lipkina, told BelaPAN following the announcement of his sentence that it would be appealed. Mr. Bandarenka himself said that he would not ask Alyaksandr Lukashenka for a presidential pardon.

Alyaksandr Barowski, the public prosecutor in the trial, refused to say whether he would file a prosecutorial appeal.

No grounds for calling Andrey Bandarenka political prisoner, rights defender says

There are no grounds for human rights defender Andrey Bandarenka to be declared a political prisoner, Tatsyana Ravyaka, a member of a human rights organization called Vyasna (Spring), told BelaPAN.

Mr. Bandarenka’s sentence is proportional to his offenses and no more severe than the sentences handed down in other similar cases in Belarus, Ms. Ravyaka said. “We were very fearful that the court would impose a lengthy prison term on Bandarenka for his human rights activities. However, Judge Abakunchyk’s ruling cannot be viewed as unfair. She didn’t go for the harshest penalties provided by Parts One, Two and Three of Article 339.”