Kasineraw sentenced to fine

A district judge in Minsk on April 27 sentenced opposition activist Vyachaslaw Kasineraw to a fine of 115 rubels (some $60) for putting a noose over the head of a statue of a tsarist Russian policeman.

The public prosecutor in the case suggested that the accused be sentenced to two years’ “restricted freedom” and corrective labor. 

Mr. Kasineraw’s lawyer argued that the accused be acquitted, noting that expressing an opinion should not be punished as a criminal offense, and that the accused had a good reason to be angry with the police because he was a victim of police violence. 

Judge Alyaksandr Petrash of the Maskowski District Court announced that he was sentencing Mr. Kasineraw to a fine of 690 rubels, but since the accused had spent a long time in jail, he was reducing the fine to five times the Base Rate, or 115 rubels. 

“I expected I would be sentenced to a restricted freedom term of at least one year and a half,” Mr. Kasineraw told reporters. “This [lenient sentence] is the result of the support I received from human rights defenders, journalists and my associates. However, I believe I didn’t commit any criminal offense and don’t consider myself a criminal. I’ll appeal the sentence because they want to put a conviction on my record to have the opportunity to jail me at any moment.” 

Mr. Kasineraw, who describes himself as a member of an anarchist group, was apprehended near the statue on the night of March 12. He was sentenced to 15 days in jail for participating in an unauthorized protest against a so-called parasite tax, which was staged in Minsk on February 17. On completion of his term, he was transferred to the detention center on Valadarskaha Street in Minsk as a suspect in the statue incident. 

The statue had been unveiled in front of the interior ministry’s building 10 days before the incident in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Belarusian police force. Alyaksandr Barsukow, head of the Minsk city police department, described the statue as a “sacred site,” but the culture ministry said in a letter to the court that the statue should not be viewed as a memorial. 

Mr. Kasineraw, 28, said in court that he had put the noose over the head of the statue to express a protest against police violence and impunity. 

Mr. Kasineraw was one of the three defendants in a so-called graffiti case. In that case, the young man was accused of daubing paint over an image of police officers on a billboard in Minsk in August 2015. He was eventually sentenced to a fine in late January 2016, although the public prosecutor in the trial suggested that he should be sentenced to a “restricted freedom” term of 18 months. 

Mr. Kasineraw was hospitalized with a double jaw fracture inflicted by a police officer when he was transporting to a police station following his violent arrest at his Minsk home on August 11, 2015. 

In July last year, the Investigative Committee notified Mr. Kasineraw that it was suspending its probe into the alleged police violence against him because it proved impossible to identify the person who had broken his jaw.