Doctor of the Minsk BSMP (emergency hospital) Artsiom Sarokin and TUT.BY journalist Katsiaryna Barysevich were detained exactly three months ago — on November 19, 2020. The Prosecutor General's Office claims, they disclosed a medical secret about the condition of Raman Bandarenka, which entailed serious consequences, namely, " increasing tension in society and creating an atmosphere of distrust of the competent state bodies." Today, their case is heard by Maskouski district court of Minsk. Both defendants face up to three years in prison.
8 am in Minsk — -22 degrees Celsius. The sun is rising above the horizon as a large fireball — Katsiaryna loved to photograph such sunrises from her window before her detention.
Just after 8.30 the public begins to gather at the House of Justice. "To attend the trial of Artsiom Sarokin and Katsiaryna Barysevich," they say at the entrance, but the police begins to let them in closer to 9 o'clock. Only four uniformed policemen with metal detectors and three men in civilian clothes with walkie-talkies enter the building after showing their IDs.
After 9.00 the families of the defendants arrive — Katsiaryna's daughter Daria, Artsiom's wife Natalia and mother Halina.
Colleagues and families of the defendants are the first to come to the doors of the courtroom. They are followed by two policemen in plain clothes. One wears a black mask, the other — a balaclava.
9.22. About 40 people have already gathered near the doors of the courtroom. Those saying at the entrance that they are going to the trial of Barysevich and Sarokin are taken aside — and only after a while are allowed inside.
9.38. Euroradio reports that at the entrance to the House of Justice, unknown people in plain clothes say that no one will be allowed in, allegedly a lot of people have already crowded the courtroom.
9.40. Alena Bandarenka, the mother of the deceased Raman Bandarenka arrives. "Of course, I expect to get in the court room, that's why I'm here. I believe that Katsiaryna and Dr. Sarokin did not violate anything, I gave them permission. As an optimistic person, I hope that justice will prevail. Although, as the judicial practice shows, and even in recent days, there is no justice, " she said.
About 9.45. Katsiaryna and Artsiom are brought into the room. The audience greets them with applause.
9.50. Lawyers and relatives are allowed into the courtroom. Then comes the turn of the media which were accredited for the trial. Journalists of independent media were not accredited to the hearing. They don't call out the names of the media that are allowed into the courtroom, — only the names of journalists.
9.55.Representatives of the Embassies of the United States, Germany, France, as well as the EU Delegation also came to the hearing.
"Since the defendants are in custody, communication with them is prohibited," we hear from the courtroom.
About 100 people remain at the doors to the courtroom.
The judge is Sviatlana Bandarenka, deputy chair for criminal cases of Maskouski district court. Katsiaryna Barysevich is defended by lawyers Andrei Machalau and Mikhail Bandarchuk, Artsiom Sarokin — by lawyer Volha Batsiuk. The Prosecutor is Ludmila Ivanenka.
10.20. The prosecutor requests to close the hearing for public, the defense strongly objects: there is a statement by Raman's mother, who insists on the public hearing. Katsiaryna’s lawyer says: "Bandarenka's mother is the only person who may or may not consent to the trial being open for public."
“I want the society to know why a journalist and a doctor are standing trial, so I support my lawyer's petition,” says Barysevich.
Doctor Artsiom Sarokin also asks for a public trial.
10.40 The decision on whether to close the hearing for public is announced. The trial will be held behind closed doors: "in order to avoid disclosure of medical secrets protected by law and data from the preliminary investigation", and also because "the case materials contain medical documents, including those that have not been published before."
This means that we will not find out what exactly they are accused of and what are specific charges against the doctor and the journalist who told the truth about the state of the deceased protester. Even their families will not be able to attend the session.
On November 12, Raman Bondarenka died without regaining consciousness. The night before, he was beaten by unknown persons in the courtyard of the building on the "Square of Changes", where he lived. On November 13, the Investigative Committee reported: "during the initial examination, along with the injuries, he [Raman Bandarenka] was diagnosed with alcohol intoxication." Almost simultaneously with this statement in a copy of a medical document appeared on the Internet, from which it followed that Raman Bandarenka had had zero level of alcohol in his blood.
TUT.BY journalist Katsiaryna Barysevich checked this information and, with reference to medical documents and the doctor's comment, published an article entitled "Emergency hospital doctor: "Raman Bandarenka had zero per mill of alcohol, nothing has been found."
The Prosecutor General's Office announced the initiation of a criminal case on the death of Raman Bandarenka only on February 18, 2021. The case against Artsiom Sarokin and Katsiaryna Barysevich was opened almost immediately — on November 19, 2020.
They were charged with disclosing a medical secret, entailing serious consequences (Article 178 part 3 of the Criminal Code). According to the Prosecutor General's Office, publication of information that on the evening of November 11, Raman Bandarenka was sober, "led to increased tension in society, created an atmosphere of distrust of the competent state bodies, and encouraged citizens' aggression and illegal actions." At the same time, Alena Bandarenka, the mother of the deceased Raman, gave her consent to dissemination of her son's medical information.