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Three Days Arrest for the Photo in Vitebsk

03.12.2014 Source: Press service of the Belarusian Association of Journalists

Judge Alena Tsyhankova ruled to punish the passer-by who had joined the photo session in Vitebsk with three days’ arrest – exactly the time he had spent in pre-trial detention.

The resident of Vitebsk, Piotr Berlinau was detained from last Friday till Monday so that he would not attempt to escape from the court hearing.

“I turned out in the place by chance – I had a meeting nearby. I recognized several journalists who had written about me and my problem – eviction from my land lot, taken away from me for the needs of the state,” says Piotr Berlinau. “I demand compensation, appeal to different instances, to courts, so I would want informational support. When I saw the journalists being photographed, whom I knew, I decided to join. The idea was beautiful – birds in the hands, all decent people.

“I turned out to be in place by chance – I had a meeting nearby. I recognized a couple of journalists who had written about me and my trouble – I had been evicted from my land lot taken away from me for the needs of the state,” says Piotr Berlinau. I demand compensation, appeal to different instances, to court, so I would want informational support. When I saw some journalists whom I know being photographed, I decided to join. The idea was beautiful – birds in the hands, all decent people. I did not have a slightest idea that we would be accused of a violation for that!”

Piotr Berlinau was detained in the street on November 28 under charges of taking part in an unsanctioned picket. He refused out of principle to move to the flat he had got instead of his land lot, so the authorities argued it was difficult to find him and that is why he was detained pending trial.

He thinks the decision is unjust because he did not intend to “express” anything at an “unsanctioned picket”, he just wanted to share contacts with journalists and support the idea to take a photo at the background of a city view.

We remind that the photo session in Vitebsk was held before November 5 and was published on Facebook page dedicated to the city and on several websites; the photo was mentioned in the context of the Stand up for Journalism campaign held by BAJ, with the initiative of the EFJ. The people in the photo have been charged with participation in an unsanctioned picket (art. 23.34 of the Administrative Code); five journalists have been fined. The photo has already gained the fame of the most expensive photo in the history of Belarusian justice, the total sum of fines by now accounts to 15,450,000 rubles (around 1,150 euro) plus three days arrest. One more person is expecting to receive a court summons.

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