Today is the day of the trial of Belsat journalists Katerina Andreeva and Darya Chultsova. Last November they were reporting live from the memorial of Roman Bondarenko — a young man beaten to death by unknown people. That day protesters and mourners gathered in Changes Square in Minsk, soon they were brutally dispersed by riot police, journalists of various media agencies were detained. Later they were accused of “inducing mass disorder.”
Katerina Andreeva and Darya Chultsova have been behind bars for two months, they have been charged with organizing and preparing actions that grossly violate public order. Human rights activists recognized both Andreeva and Chultsova as political prisoners.
The courthouse is crowded: colleagues from various media, relatives, friends and diplomates came to support them. Journalists of Belarusian and Russian pro-government media, as well as Onliner, Nasha Niva, Komsomolskaya Pravda and Narodnaya Volya were allowed into the hall. Dozens of people were left behind the doors of the hall, in the corridor.
The prosecutor read out for more than ten minutes what Katerina Andreeva and Daria Chultsova are accused of.
According to the investigation, on 15 November “out of mercenary motives, being at the address Smorgovsky tract, 1”, by prior conspiracy with each other and other unidentified persons, they had intended to organize actions that grossly violate public order and involve obvious disobedience to the legitimate requirements of representatives of the authority or entail disruption of the work of transport. The crime was committed with the help of mobile phones, video cameras, a tripod and Press vests.
The prosecution states that “by airing information, they gathered active participants who grossly violated public order”, “in order to arrange mass gathering able to resist the actions of law enforcement officers.” The investigation states that Katerina Andreeva “gave a positive assessment” to the ongoing events, thus calling for unauthorized events and thereby “organized actions that grossly violate public order.” They caused disruptions in the work of public transport. “Minsktrans” estimated the damage at more than BYN 11,500 [~$4,430/3,700]
During the trial, Daria and Katerina were still trying to keep their spirits. Both pleaded not guilty. Chultsova’s lawyer filed a petition to change the measure of restraint for both defendants, citing their lack of convictions and the COVID-19 epidemic, which makes it unsafe to be in the pre-trial detention centre. Judge Natalia Buguk did not grant the request.