On July 26, Pavel Mazheika, a journalist and public figure, and Yulia Yurhilevich, a former lawyer, received their sentencing from the Hrodna Regional Court. Both were sentenced to six years in prison.
Pavel and Yulia were accused of repeatedly promoting extremist activities as a group prior to conspiracy. They faced charges for sending information to the Belsat TV channel during February-March 2022. The channel was previously declared an extremist formation.
The defendants were apprehended on August 30, 2022. The case details were unknown for a while because the participants and attorneys had to agree not to disclose any information. Belarusian human rights organizations declared Pavel a political prisoner on September 20, 2022. His release was also demanded by the European Federation of Journalists.
Just before the trial on June 17, Pavel’s lawyer, Aliaksandr Birylau, who had once defended journalist Andrzej Poczobut, was disbarred.
The public was initially allowed to attend the trial of Pavel Mazheika and Yulia Yurhilevich, which began on July 10. However, just before the defendants’ final statements, the trial was closed to protect the privacy of an IT specialist who was scheduled to testify in court.
The case file states that Pavel Mazheika, with Yulia Yurhilevich’s help, provided information in February and March 2022 about Yulia’s revoked law license and expulsion from the Hrodna Regional Bar Association, and reported on artist Ales Pushkin’s trial.
Yulia Yurhilevich has been a lawyer for nearly 18 years. She represented political prisoners, including Ales Pushkin, Artsiom Bayarski, Ihar Bantsar, Andrei Asiyevich, and Andrei Sakalouski.
The Hrodna Regional Bar Association expelled her on February 23, 2022 for “violating the law repeatedly.” She has been held in custody for over ten months.
Pavel Mazheika is a well-known journalist and public figure in Hrodna. A website devoted to his work was created after he was taken into custody.
In 2021, Pavel Mazheika, artist Ales Pushkin, and others were accused of actions promoting Nazism, and a criminal case was opened against them. According to the prosecutor’s office, the portrait of Yauhen Zhykhar, a Belarusian activist who opposed the Soviet Union, was displayed at a painting exhibition on March 19, 2021 with a machine gun on his shoulder. These actions were aimed at the rehabilitation and justification of Nazism. Mazheika was released later because there were no sufficient grounds for detention.