The imprisoned human rights defender Andrei Bandarenka will be released tomorrow, after the Lieninski District Court of Mahilioŭ found him today not guilty of violating prison rules. If convicted, Bandarenka could have faced another year in prison, as requested by the prosecutor earlier today.
Andrei Bandarenka, former head of the Platform Innovation human rights NGO, was charged under Part 2, Art. 411 of the Criminal Code (“willful disobedience to the correctional institution administration”), after the prison authorities imposed on him a dozen penalties for alleged breach of internal regulations.
In particular, the prisoner was accused of lying on his bed in the daytime, which is prohibited by the prison rules. In a separate episode, he was penalized for talking during a walk in the prison yard.
The country’s leading human rights groups said shortly after Bandarenka faced charges that if convicted, the criteria applied for the definition of politically motivated judicial harassment would allow them to “qualify Bandarenka as a political prisoner.”
"We are pleased with the outcome of the trial, although I realize that the decision in Bandarenka's case was not taken by this judge, but by superior authorities," Ales Bialiatski, chairman of the Human Rights Center "Viasna", said after the court hearing.
"It seems that at the last moment, for tactical reasons, the authorities decided not to aggravate the situation and canceled a prearranged sentence. Nevertheless, we continue to strongly criticize the existence of the Criminal Code Article 411, which allows subjectively and selectively, according to the will and desire of the administration of the prison system, or those who are behind it, to punish violators of prison rules by additional prison terms. The fact that Andrei Bandarenka will soon be free is due to both the Belarusian human rights defenders and the entire Belarusian society with an active civic stance.
We will seek the abolition of Article 411 as a shameful vestiges of the Soviet era," the human rights activist said.
Published on Viasna website on March 30, 2017.