Guilty: Zolatava to Pay a Fine and BelTA Costs

04.03.2019 Source: BAJ News Service Story: Гучныя справы

Zavodski district court of Minsk has announced the verdict to Maryna Zolatava, the chief editor of the portal Tut.by.

Zolatava has been found guilty of dereliction of duty, which resulted in significant harm to the state and public interests.

Maryna Zolatava must pay a fine of 300 base values (7,650 BYN).

Zolatava is restricted from leaving the country before the judgment enters into legal force.

In addition, Maryna Zolatava must also pay BelTA 6,000 BYN of sue charges.

Hard drives, laptops, a mobile phone, and system unit will be returned to her.

The court also ruled to return the equipment seized during the searches to the editors of Tut.by.

Representatives of the prosecution did not agree to video recording of the verdict pronouncement.

"I have not yet decided whether I will appeal this court decision; you know that Belarus has only 0.2% of acquittals. I did not expect on such a sentence. I was pleased that the sentence was milder than the prosecutor requested. I want to relax.

I want to thank the journalists who were following the case, as well as my family and colleagues who supported me," Maryna said after the announcement of the verdict.

February 25 the Zavodski court of Minsk finished the hearings of a criminal case against the chief editor of Tut.by Maryna Zolatava. Her case was heard by Judge Alexander Petrash , who, according to Viasna, repeatedly handed down politically motivated rulings on administrative decisions to prominent politicians, public figures and activists.

Maryna Zolatava pleaded not guilty.

During the trial, the witnesses - Tut.by staff - claimed they had been pressured during the investigation, and the investigative bodies demanded to slander their chief editor.

For example, the editor of Tut.by Ulyana Babayed told the court:

"The head of the investigation team shouted at me and demanded evidence against Zolatava. My lawyer was not allowed to see me. They did not warn me about my right not to testify."

The prosecutor asked the court for a penalty with a fine of 25,500 BYN. The Criminal Code provides for punishment of up to 5 years in prison on the charges of dereliction of duty.

Maryna Zolatava remained the only accused in the “BelTA case”, the other defendants - 14 employees of various media - were exempt from criminal charges that had been replaced with administrative liability. In addition to fines, journalists were required to pay damages. The amounts of damages ranged from 3 to 17 thousand BYN.

On August 7, the police searched the offices of TUT.BY and BelaPAN and detained.  Maryna Zolatava, chief editor of TUT.BY, TUT.BY's editors Hanna Kaltyhina, Halina Ulasik, and Hanna Yarmachonak, BelaPAN's chief editor Iryna Leushyna and its commentator on international affairs Tatsiana Karavenkova, Deutsche Welle's correspondent Pauliuk Bykouski, and editor of Belorusy i Rynok website Aliaksei Zhukau. They all spent several days in Akrestsina temporary detention center.

The Belarusian journalists and media outlets received support from the European Union, the Council of Europe, the United States, as well as international human rights organizations.