Video: Trial of opposition activist Andrey Kim

The trial of opposition activist Andrey Kim began in Minsk’s Tsentralny District Court on April 1 but was soon postponed indefinitely, as Judge Alena Ilyina agreed with the prosecution that the criminal charges against the young man be merged into one case.

The judge rejected the defense’s motion that the 22-year-old Kim be released on bail or on his own recognizance. Defense lawyer Tamara Sidarenka vainly argued that the defendant’s mother, Tatsyana Kim, and business owners Alyaksandr Makayew and Ihar Lednik were ready to deposit a bail, that Andrey had no previous criminal record, and that he had poor health.

Andrey Kim has been held in jail since January 21, when he was arrested together with more than 20 other people who participated in an unsanctioned demonstration in Minsk against the government’s restrictive policy regarding small business owners.

He was sentenced to 10 days in jail and a fine of 1,050,000 rubels ($490) but was not freed on completion of his term, as a criminal charge was brought against him under Article 364 of the Criminal Code, which penalizes violence or threats of violence against a police officer.” The charge carries a penalty of up to six years in prison.

It turned out that Mr. Kim was also facing a charge of “active participation in group actions grossly disturbing the public peace” under Article 342 of the Criminal Code. Fourteen people, mainly youths, have reportedly been charged under the same article in connection with an unsanctioned protest that was staged in Minsk on January 10. Mr. Kim’s case is now expected to be heard together with the cases of those people, who remain free on their own recognizance.

Several dozen opposition youths gathered near the courthouse to display their solidarity with the defendant. They hung a sign saying, “Freedom to Andrey Kim!” and chanted the same slogan, but were soon pushed back by police.

Prominent opposition leaders, including Alyaksandr Milinkevich, Lyavon Barshchewski, Vintsuk Vyachorka and Mikalay Statkevich, as well as representatives of the US embassy attended the hearing.

Anatol Lyabedzka, chairman of the United Civic Party, condemned the trial as “politically motivated, both in form and content.”