“Trivial revenge and desire to demonstrate their control.” Yan Rudzik comments on trial

16.02.2023 Source: Служба маніторынгу Беларускай асацыяцыі журналістаў

A court hearing in the case of the Nexta bloggers Stsiapan Putsila and Yan Rudzik has been scheduled at Minsk Regional Court on 16 February. They will be tried in absentia under the so-called “special proceedings”. Raman Pratasevich is also expected to attend, but his legal status – defendant or witness – has not been disclosed.

“All this looks like a cheap show for idiots,” Yan Rudzik shared with the Belarusian Association of Journalists.

“I only know the trial date and the charges,” he noted. “No one tried to contact me, neither the investigators nor the prosecutor’s office. I have even received no messages from the lawyer I was allegedly assigned by the state. That is why I am convinced that it is trivial revenge, a desire to show that they remember everything and that severe punishment is sure to befall the enemies of the regime.”

Stsiapan Putsila and Yan Rudzik live and work in Poland, their cases were investigated within “special proceedings” in their absence. Raman Pratasevich has been under house arrest in Minsk for over a year and a half.

Pratasevich has not been summoned for the 16 February session. Are the authorities really ready to grant him amnesty for cooperation?

“It’s difficult to make any assumptions, he may have already been reclassified as a witness,” Yan Rudzik admitted in a conversation with the BAJ monitoring service.

Raman Pratasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega were detained in May 2021 after the forced landing of a Ryanair plane at Minsk airport. The former Nexta editor quickly became a “puppet” in the hands of the law enforcers and started appearing on state-run TV and at press conferences organized by government agencies. But it seems he never received the promised indulgencies for “sincere repentance.” Pratasevich stays under house arrest, Sofia Sapega has been sentenced to 6 years of imprisonment, and his former associates are to be tried under “special proceedings” and risk being stripped of their property and Belarusian citizenship.

The three defendants were charged with inciting social hatred, organizing mass riots and instructing others to participate in them, organizing group actions that grossly violate public order, encouraging takeover of power, terrorism, or other actions aimed at harming national security, establishing and heading an extremist formation, libeling and publicly insulting the President of the Republic of Belarus.

Stsiapan Putsila and Yan Rudzik were additionally accused of conspiracy to take power by unconstitutional means, financing extremist activities, and discrediting the Republic of Belarus.

Finally, Stsiapan Putsila was individually charged with organizing the activities of a terrorist organization. The Prosecutor General’s Office filed a claim for compensation of property damage of over $11,8 million.

The accusation believes that since 2020, conspiring to take power through unconstitutional means, the defendants have published materials in the Nexta and Belarus Golovnogo Mozga pages on social media intending to incite people’s participation in mass riots and armed resistance to the authorities, organize unauthorized public gatherings, incite social hatred, using or threatening to use violence, spread defamatory information and publish personal data.

Stsiapan Putsila and Yan Rudzik were remanded in custody in absentia, while Raman Pratasevich stays under house arrest.