The verdict in the "zero per mille" case: six months in prison for TUT.BY journalist and suspended two years for the doctor

04.03.2021 Source: TUT.BY

On March 2, at 16.00, Maskouski district court of Minsk announced the verdict to TUT.BY journalist Katsiaryna Barysevich and BSMP emergency hospital doctor Artsiom Sarokin. They are accused of disclosing medical secrets, which, according to the Prosecutor General's Office, entailed serious consequences. It is not known what punishment the prosecutor requested: the trial was closed for public.

The court pronounced a guilty verdict for both the doctor and the journalist. Katsiaryna Barysevich was sentenced to six months in a penal colony and a fine of 100 basic units, and Artsiom Sarokin to two years in prison suspended for a year and a fine of 50 basic units. He was released in the courtroom.

According to Katsiaryna Barysevich's lawyers, in view of the time that she spent in the pre-trial detention center, she will be released in a little more than two months.

Фото: TUT.BY

The case was heard by Maskouski district court of Minsk in the House of Justice on Semashki Street. The judge's name is Sviatlana Bandarenka, and the state prosecutor's --Ludmila Ivanenka. Katsiaryna Barysevich was defended by lawyers Andrei Machalau and Mikhail Badnarchuk, and Artsiom Sarokin-- by Volha Batsiuk.

They were charged under Article 178 part 3 -- "Disclosure of a medical secret entailing serious consequences"

The fifth court session was held on February 25, after which the court adjourned until March 2. The next session was scheduled for 10.30, where the participants learned that the verdict would be pronounced the same day — at 16.00.

The day before, on March 1, Maskouski district court denied TUT.BY journalists accreditation for the announcement of the verdict, refering to the lack of seats in the courtroom and "unfavorable epidemiological situation". Independent media, in particular Onliner and BelaPAN, were banned from the public announcement of the verdict.

Фото: TUT.BY

The press representatives -- five people from state press only --  were the first to enter the courtroom. The next were the families of Artsiom Sarokin and Katsiaryna Barysevich.

Diplomats from the EU Delegation to Belarus were also allowed in the courtroom.

Basically, only families and representatives of accredited state-run media could go in. Friends and colleagues had to stay behind.   A few of Katsiaryna's colleagues were not allowed to enter the courtroom because of their T-shirts with her photo.

Фото: TUT.BY

— And if someone faints from lack of oxygen —  comes the question.

— There are many doctors here, - apparently, colleagues of Artsiom Sarokin are joking.

The verdict was announced at 14.00. Katsiaryna Barysevich was sentenced to six months in a penal colony and a fine of 100 basic units, and Artsiom Sarokin to two years in prison suspended for a year and a fine of 50 basic units. Artsiom was released in the courtroom on his own recognizance, and Katsiaryna remained in custody. Both are not deprived of the right to practice their profession. Their phones will be confiscated.

How did the trial go?

The "zero per mille" trial began on Friday, February 19. That day, more than 100 people came to support the doctor and the journalist, but only few of them were able to get into the courtroom -- mostly families, diplomats and some colleagues.

Prosecutor Liudmila Ivanenka requested that the trial be held behind closed doors. The lawyers of the defendants, as well as Katsiaryna and Artsiom themselves, insisted on an open hearing, "so that the public knows what a journalist and a doctor are being tried for."

Nevertheless, judge Sviatlana Bandarenka decided to close the hearing for the public -- "in order to avoid disclosure of legally protected medical secrets and preliminary investigation data", as well as because "the case materials contain medical documents, including previously unpublished ones". The case was heard behind closed doors, which were guarded by uniformed policemen and plainclothes officers.

Фото: Belta via Reuters

On February 19, the court questioned Alena Bandarenka, Raman Bandarenka's mother. On the same day, as well as on Monday, February 22, the doctors of the Minsk emergency hospital gave evidence. Among them — the resuscitators who treated the deceased Raman Bandarenka, the doctor of laboratory diagnostics who did a blood test for ethanol, and also, probably, the doctor on duty who examined Bandarenka in the emergency room.

On February 23 — the third day of the trial — Volha Kucharenka, Raman's cousin, was summoned to the court. Before signing a non-disclosure agreement, she said that all the time Raman was in the hospital, his family spoke publicly about his condition. His mother, Alena Bandarenka, gave permission to distribute this information. According to Volha, Barysevich contacted her before publishing the "zero per mille" article. "She received official permission from me to publish this information. My aunt repeatedly said that she was not going to keep it a secret."

Katsiaryna Barysevich's colleagues, as well as the girl who was next to Raman Bandarenka, before he was beaten and taken away by unknown people, also testified at the trial that day. According to her, Raman was sober that night, "there was no smell, I would have noticed it."

On February 24, there were no witnesses near the courtroom — most likely, their interrogation was over, and the court moved on to the testimony of the defendants, the study of documents and the debate of the parties.

What happened?

The criminal case against Katsiaryna Barysevich and Artsiom Sarokin was opened on November 19, 2020. They were accused of disclosing medical secrets, which, according to the Prosecutor General's Office, entailed serious consequences. The maximum penalty under this article is three years in prison. On November 13, Katsiaryna Barysevich published an article, where she referred to medical documents and a doctor's comment, stating that no ethanol had been found in Raman Bandarenka's blood. The top officials claimed that the deceased was drunk.

Artsiom Sarokin, 37, is a Board certified anesthesiologist of BSMP emergency hospital. . . He worked the night when the beaten Raman Bandarenka was brought to hospital, and provided him with an anesthetic support. Artsiom Sarokin has wife Natalia and three children: Mikhail, 9, Fiodar, 6, and little Lia.

Фото: читатели TUT.BY

In April, TUT.BY journalist Katsiaryna Barysevich will turn 37. She has been a journalist for almost 15 years, specializing in legal issues: high-profile criminal cases and court proceedings. Katsiaryna repeatedly became the winner of many professional competitions. In particular, in 2015, the Prosecutor General's office awarded her the winner's diploma "for professionalism and journalistic skills". In 2020, the agency srated a criminal case against her for her professional activities.

Belarusian human rights community have recognized Barysevich and Sarokin as political prisoners, and Amnesty International has called them prisoners of conscience.