Small business activist receives 2 ½-year prison sentence for allegedly beating jailer

He took out a small icon, saying, “This is God.” Then he pointed to his relatives and said, “This is my family. I swear by the lives and health of my wife, son...

A judge of Minsk’s Maskowski District Court on April 23 sentenced small business activist Syarhey Parsyukevich to 2 ½ years in a minimum security correctional institution, finding him guilty of beating up a policeman, BelaPAN reports.

Judge Uladzimir Awdzeyenka also ordered that Mr. Parsyukevich should pay 1,100,000 rubels ($515) to the police officer in compensation for the “moral damage.”

The sentence was met with shouts of “Hanba!” (Shame on you!) from the accused’s supporters.

Mr. Parsyukevich, a resident of Vitsyebsk, has been held in jail since March 4, when he arrived at the Maskowski District Prosecutor’s Office in Minsk for questioning on suspicion of violence against a police officer in connection with an incident that occurred when he was serving a 15-day jail sentence in Minsk over his participation in a protest staged by small business owners and sympathizers in the Belarusian capital on January 10.

Mr. Parsyukevich, a retired police major who chairs the Sole Entrepreneurs’ Council at Vitsyebsk’s Smalenski market, insisted that he was brutally beaten on January 21 by a jailer in the rank of police warrant officer in the detention center on Akrestsina Street.

However, the officer, Alyaksandr Dulub, alleged at the trial that it was him who had beaten up by Mr. Parsyukevich and produced a medical certificate of light bodily injuries. “I entered the cell and asked everyone to stand up,” he said. “All obeyed my order except Parsyukevich, who kept lying on the bed. I told him several times to stand up, but he was still lying, asking why he should stand up. Then I slightly pushed him with a foot.” According to the officer, he then “offered” the inmate to come out of the cell and go to the interrogation room in order to show him the facility’s internal regulations. Mr. Parsyukevich allegedly attacked him in the room, hitting him in the face with a fist. “I covered my face with my hands and he kept hitting me,” the officer said, adding that he had only managed to put the inmate down with the help of another officer, Uladzimir Yakimchyk.

The accused emphatically dismissed the testimony as lies. In his last statement, he said that he had repeatedly proposed to Mr. Dulub that they both should undergo a polygraph examination. “He refused because he knows that he tells lies,” Mr. Parsyukevich said.

Syarhey Parsyukevich He took out a small icon and showed it to the audience, saying, “This is God.” Then he pointed to his relatives and said, “This is my family. I swear by the lives and health of my wife, son and mother that I did not beat anybody.” He also pointed to Mr. Dulub, saying, “God will punish him.”

Public Prosecutor Syarhey Kunash suggested that the accused be sentenced to three years in prison, although the offense carries a penalty of up to six years’ imprisonment. He explained that there were extenuating circumstances in the case, namely that the accused is a bronchial asthma patient and has an under 18-year-old son.

Defense lawyer Vera Stramkowskaya pointed out that the prosecution had never produced convincing evidence of Mr. Parsyukevich’s guilt.

Small business activist Alyaksandr Tawstyka, a witness for the defense who had been a cellmate of Mr. Parsyukevich, testified that police officer Dulub had burst into the cell, rudely ordered Mr. Parsyukevich to stand up, kicked him in the legs and taken him out of the cell. According to Mr. Tawstyka, about 10 minutes later, he and other people in the cell heard Mr. Parsyukevich cry, “Help! They are killing me.” Mr. Tawstyka noted that the alleged victim, Mr. Dulub, had falsely accused Mr. Parsyukevich in order to escape punishment for his violence.

According to Mr. Parsyukevich, after the officer kicked him and he asked, “What for?” he was taken to the interrogation room where he was beaten up by Messrs. Dulub and Yakimchyk. He said that he might have hit back for self-defense. “I was being hit in the head and I was fighting for my life,” Mr. Parsyukevich said, noting that he had been on the eighth day of his hunger strike in protest against his arrest. “As a former police officer, I state that it’s idiocy to attack a policeman while being in prison,” he stressed. According to him, the police officers did not return him to the mass cell after the beating and locked him in a solitary cell so that nobody would see the traces. He managed to see a doctor to document the beating only seven days after the incident.

Before his going into retirement in 2004, Mr. Parsyukevich had served as chief of the forensic criminalistics office of the Vitsyebsk police department.