Video: People charged over January 10 demonstration hold news conference

Small business activists and opposition youths charged over an unsanctioned protest staged in Minsk on January 10 against the government’s crackdown on sole entrepreneurs held a news conference in the Belarusian capital on March 17.

The criminal case was opened by the Minsk city police department under Part 1 of the Criminal Case’s Article 342 that penalizes the "organization of, preparations for or active participation in actions flagrantly violating the public order" with a fine, a jail term of up to six months, a restricted freedom term of up to three years or a prison sentence of up to three years. A total of 14 people were charged in the case.

The accused said that they had petitioned Prosecutor General Ryhor Vasilevich to drop the case and punish the officials who opened it.

Mikhail Subach described the opposition’s efforts to respond to political crackdown as “disorganized and unprepared.”

According to Khrystafor Zhalyapaw, a human rights defender resident in Vitsyebsk, a group of opposition activists has urged the Prosecutor General’s Office to attend to poor jail conditions that Syarhey Parsyukevich, a sole entrepreneur who was arrested during the demonstration and is held in custody on an unrelated charge, is facing. In particular, he said, Mr. Parsyukevich is suffering exacerbated asthma symptoms as he is held in an unheated cell.

Tatsyana Kim, the mother of Andrey Kim, the only person charged over the demonstration who is held in custody, described her son as a very religious man who “does not drink, smoke or fight” and expressed bewilderment at the police’s refusal to release him on his own recognizance or on bail.

More than 3,000 people took part in the January 10 demonstration. They staged a rally on Kastrychnitskaya Square and marched along Independence Avenue to the House of Government on Independence Square where they dispersed several hours later. Almost 30 people were arrested.