On 14 May, the Oktyabrsky District Court of Minsk begins to consider the “case of students” who were detained last November and accused of organizing and preparing actions that grossly violate public order. There are 12 accused in total: ten students from different Minsk universities, a medical graduate and a teacher at BSUIR. For more than six months they have been in jail. By the beginning of the first session, more than a hundred people had come to the courthouse, but only some of them managed to get inside. Journalists of independent media and even some relatives of the accused had to wait outside. Police asked the crowd to disperse, after which the arrests took place.
The case of the students is being considered by the Oktyabrsky District Court of Minsk in the building of the House of Justice. When the students were detained, it was late autumn, now it is late spring. They meet it behind the bars of a pre-trial detention centre. Friends and relatives of the accused began to come to the House of Justice, very early – by 9.30 am. By this time, a minibus with tinted windows and a police car are already in the parking lot near the courthouse, and two yellow buses with tightly curtained windows are in the backyard.
Vitaly Budko, the father of the detained Kasya from the Belarusian State Pedagogical University, is also here. During these long six months, he never saw his daughter: only the girl’s mother and grandmother were allowed to see her once. Will he see his daughter today? As he was explained, there are only 20 seats for the audience in the courtroom, and there are 12 accused, and each has more than one relative.
Young people who came to support the students are gathering on the porch of the House of Justice, they go inside, but quickly come back. “They said that there are few seats in the courtroom, so at first only relatives will be allowed. They asked if we could at least stand at the door They said no, because of the “COVID-19″. And this was said by a man without a mask,” the young people are indignant and remain standing on the porch.
By 9.40, several dozen people had already gathered outside the building. In the building itself, there are guards and plainclothes officers on duty. Police officers are also on duty in the street. Lawyers were allowed into the courtroom first, then two relatives of each accused. Journalists and ordinary visitors will be admitted only if there are empty seats in the room.
After 10.15, the accused were brought into the hall. The hearing is scheduled for 10.30. The trial is being conducted by judge Marina Fedorova. Neither journalists nor photographers, who do not need a place in the room, were not allowed to attend the hearing. Some of the relatives of the accused, as well as journalists, remained in the corridor. The doors of the courtroom closed, although thу process is open. The grandmother, who was not allowed inside, burst into tears.
More than a hundred people remain on the street who came to support the accused. A policeman came out and requested to disperse, but the people said that they would stand until the end of the hearing. Those who came to support the students were in no hurry to leave. The process was accelerated by police officers, who yelled in a megaphone that “people will no longer be allowed into the courtroom, please disperse.” A few minutes later, riot police officers got out of the minibus and people slowly began to disperse. Those who did it at a leisurely pace were stopped by riot police officers and taken into a minibus.
Among the detainees is the ex-chairman of the United Civil Party Anatoly Lebedko. As the readers informed TUT.BY, he was stopped by people in civilian clothes as he was about to leave.
TUT.BY journalist Lyubov Kasperovich was also detained. Before her arrest, she interviewed friends of one of the accused — she fulfilled her professional duties, preparing a report.
Very soon there was no one left near the courthouse. Two policemen were on duty at the entrance, the area was patrolled by police service vehicles. According to the Minsk city executive committee’s department of internal affairs, at about 11 am, 14 people were detained near the House of Justice, who “did not fulfil the lawful demands of the police officers.”
“Law enforcement officers have repeatedly warned the audience about the illegality of holding mass events and asked to disperse. These citizens were taken to the district police department of Minsk for investigation,” the statement reads.