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  • Stolin court sentences blogger Aliaksandr Ihnatsiuk

    On 5 April 2024, the Stolin Dis­trict Court announced the ver­dict in the crim­i­nal case against blog­ger and for­mer edi­tor of the news­pa­per Vech­erniy Stolin Ali­ak­san­dr Ihnat­siuk.

    Blog­ger Ali­ak­san­dr Ihnat­siuk. File pho­to

    BAJ learned that Judge Siarhei Nase­nia sen­tenced the 53-year-old polit­i­cal pris­on­er to 6 years in prison and a fine of $2,450.

    In addi­tion to the jail term and the hefty fine, the court ordered Ali­ak­san­dr Ihnat­siuk to pay $550 in moral dam­ages to the busi­ness­man, who was alleged­ly black­mailed. The blog­ger’s lap­top was also con­fis­cat­ed as a “tool for com­mit­ting a crime.”

    The tri­al was held in closed ses­sion for three weeks. As a result, Ali­ak­san­dr Ihnat­siuk was found guilty under three arti­cles of the Crim­i­nal Code of the Repub­lic of Belarus:

    • Orga­niz­ing protest actions in Stolin and Min­sk (Part 1 of Arti­cle 342 of the Crim­i­nal Code),
    •  Defama­tion of Ali­ak­san­dr Lukashenko (Part 2 of Arti­cle 367 of the Crim­i­nal Code),
    •  Black­mail (Part 2 of Arti­cle 208 of the Crim­i­nal Code).

    Dur­ing the tri­al, the blog­ger par­tial­ly admit­ted to the charges of orga­niz­ing protests and defama­tion, but did not admit to the charge of extor­tion.

    Ihnat­siuk was arrest­ed on July 18, 2023. A month lat­er, the Belaru­sian human rights com­mu­ni­ty rec­og­nized him as a polit­i­cal pris­on­er.

    It was not until March 2024 that the author­i­ties revealed the rea­son for Ignatiuk’s arrest – on the eve of the tri­al, the Belaru­sian Inte­ri­or Min­istry pub­lished a video of the blog­ger’s bru­tal deten­tion on its Telegram chan­nel and announced the incrim­i­nat­ing charges.

    Ali­ak­san­dr Ihnat­siuk pub­lished the inde­pen­dent region­al news­pa­per Vech­erniy Stolin and served as its edi­tor-in-chief in the late 1990s and ear­ly 2000s.

    In 2003, the news­pa­per was sus­pend­ed for three months by order of the then-Min­is­ter of Infor­ma­tion, Mikhail Pad­hainy, due to alleged vio­la­tions of the Law on Press and Oth­er Mass Media.

    In Octo­ber 2003, Vech­erniy Stolin news­pa­per resumed pub­li­ca­tion. How­ev­er, in Decem­ber of the same year, the edi­tor, Ali­ak­san­dr Ihnat­siuk, was found guilty of insult­ing Uladz­imir Pashke­vich, the for­mer chair­man of Stolin Dis­trict Exec­u­tive Com­mit­tee. As a result, Ihnat­siuk was fined $230 under Arti­cle 369 of the Crim­i­nal Code.

    In Feb­ru­ary 2004, Ihnat­siuk received a warn­ing and anoth­er order to sus­pend the pub­li­ca­tion for three months by mail for alleged vio­la­tions of the mass media law.

    The edi­to­r­i­al office was crit­i­cized for hav­ing adver­tis­ing mate­ri­als that exceed­ed 30% of the issue vol­ume, despite not being reg­is­tered as a spe­cial­ized mass media for adver­tis­ing mes­sages and mate­ri­als.

    The news­pa­per faced a sec­ond law­suit due to changes in the publication’s theme and lan­guage with­out noti­fy­ing the reg­is­tra­tion author­i­ty in writ­ing. The warn­ing stat­ed that the news­pa­per had shift­ed its focus from busi­ness and leisure top­ics to mass pol­i­tics and had switched from using both Russ­ian and Belaru­sian lan­guages to only using Russ­ian.

    As a result, the news­pa­per Vech­erniy Stolin was nev­er pub­lished again. Ali­ak­san­dr Ihnat­siuk cre­at­ed the web­site Pro Stolin and worked as a free­lance jour­nal­ist. He also engaged in blog­ging, mak­ing videos that he post­ed on the web­site, Tik­Tok, YouTube, and Insta­gram.

    On Feb­ru­ary 13th of this year, the Lenin­s­ki Dis­trict Court of Brest deemed the web­site stolin.bu and the per­son­al page of the site’s edi­tor, Ali­ak­san­dr Ihnat­siuk on the social media app VKon­tak­te as ‘extrem­ist’. Three days lat­er, on Feb­ru­ary 16th, the same court reaf­firmed the Stolin web­site’s ‘extrem­ist’ sta­tus.

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