Court in Minsk starts hearing tax ministry's suit against Ihar Lohvinaw's bookstore

The Economic Court of Minsk on Monday started hearing the tax ministry's suit seeking payment of a penalty of one billion rubels by prominent publisher Ihar Lohvinaw’s bookstore.

Several dozen people turned out at the court to support the publisher, but only four of them were allowed to attend the hearing, held in a small courtroom.

Ihar Lohvinaw

"Our opinion and the opinion of tax authorities were heard," Mr. Lohvinaw told reporters outside the courtroom. "It was an unusual and quite unpleasant experience. The next hearing will be held on January 9."

The publisher said that the bookstore continued operating. "One of the solutions to the problem is the registration of a new legal entity and the receipt of permission to sell books," he said.

Mr. Lohvinaw announced that earlier in the day he had filed a formal appeal against the information ministry's decision to deny his company a license to publish and sell books.

The penalty was imposed on the bookstore for unlicensed retailing as a result of an unscheduled audit ordered by the information ministry.

Mr. Lohvinaw applied eight times for the license after he was ordered to obtain it in January 2014. He was refused each time.

In September 2013, the information ministry revoked the Lohvinaw Publishing House's license over the publication of the 2011 Belarus Press Photo book, which was later found to be "extremist material." Mr. Lohvinaw’s appeals against the ministry’s decision were rejected. He subsequently moved his business to Lithuania and had an organization called the Lohvinaw Literary House registered in Vilnius.

The Lohvinaw bookstore is one of the few outlets offering Belarusian-language literary works by contemporary authors. // BelaPAN