Belarusian journalist Andrzej Poczobut arrested
On 21 June journalist Andrzej Poczobut (right) was arrested in his apartment in Hrodna. The criminal case under the article "libel against the President of the Republic of Belarus" is initiated against him on the grounds of his several publications on Belarusian news web-sites.
Sunday, 24 June 2012, by Belarusian HRH based on nn.by, svaboda.org
Besides, Poczobut's apartment was searched and his computers confiscated. The journalist himself was taken for interrogation, where he refused to answer questions, after which he was taken to the Hrodna prison.
His wife Aksana speaks on the arrest:
"Andrzej was working at our place, writing an article about Ales Bialiatski. Police came to our house [with an order from] from the regional prosecutor's office. Six people arrived: the investigator, two uniformed men, and two more men and a woman in civilian clothing. The investigator said that our place would be searched, but it wouldn't take much time, as they came for the computer and Andrzej, to take him for interrogation.
The whole process took, as it seemed to me, less than an hour. They seized the computer and Andrzej, who already knew that he would be jailed today. He quickly packed a bag for prison with the things at hand. He was immediately taken to the prosecutor's office, where he met his lawyer, refused to testify, and was taken to prison at once".
The presidential libel case against Poczobut under Art. 367 Part 2 of the Belarusian Criminal Code was initiated by the Hrodna office of the Investigative Committee as a result of an inspection carried out by the KGB regional office.
"The inspection of materials showed that some of the publications written by A. Poczobut and distributed through the Internet-based information resources contained defamatory information about the President of the Republic of Belarus", the Investigative Committee representative explained.
A linguistic examination was conducted as part of the investigation. According to the experts, the publications contained words, phrases and expressions defaming the Belarusian President and discrediting the Republic of Belarus.
Under Art. 367 Part 2 one can be sentenced to the restriction of freedom for a term of five years or imprisonment for the same period.
Tatsiana Reviaka: "This arrest is a warning to all journalists"
Head of the Belarusian Human Rights House, human rights defender Tatsiana Reviaka said that the arrest of the journalist can be seen as an attempt to intimidate all journalists before the parliamentary elections in Belarus, which are to be held on 23 September:
"Of course, this is a very bad tendency that journalists are being muzzled on the eve of the elections.This arrest is a warning to all journalists, including those who want to give objective coverage of the elections, to show the shortcomings of the electoral campaign, and not only – also for those who want to cover the situation in the country on the whole. It's just the sign to all other journalists to keep silence".
Andrzej Poczobut is a reporter for the Polish Gazeta Wyborcza in Belarus. He also collaborates with a number of Belarusian publications. Last year he had already been arrested on charges of insulting the president and libel against the president, and spent three months custody in Hrodna.
That criminal case was based on eight journalist's publications which appeared in Gazeta Wyborcza, and two which were posted online – one on Belaruspartisan.org website and the other in the journalist’s personal Livejournal blog.
On 5 July 2011, Leninski court of Hrodna acquitted Poczobut of Art. 368 Part 1 of the Criminal Code (insulting the President of Belarus), but found him guilty of Art. 367 Part 1 of the Criminal Code (libel against the President of Belarus). The journalist was sentenced to a three-year suspended imprisonment.
Belarusian HRH based on nn.by, svaboda.org