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  • The verdict in the «zero per mille» case: six months in prison for TUT.BY journalist and suspended two years for the doctor

    On March 2, at 16.00, Maskouski district court of Minsk announced the verdict to TUT.BY journalist Katsiaryna Barysevich and BSMP emergency hospital doctor Artsiom Sarokin. They are accused of disclosing medical secrets, which, according to the Prosecutor General's Office, entailed serious consequences. It is not known what punishment the prosecutor requested: the trial was closed for public.

    The court pronounced a guilty verdict for both the doctor and the journalist. Katsiaryna Barysevich was sentenced to six months in a penal colony and a fine of 100 basic units, and Artsiom Sarokin to two years in prison suspended for a year and a fine of 50 basic units. He was released in the courtroom.

    According to Katsiaryna Barysevich's lawyers, in view of the time that she spent in the pre-trial detention center, she will be released in a little more than two months.

    Фото: TUT.BY

    The case was heard by Mask­ous­ki dis­trict court of Min­sk in the House of Jus­tice on Semash­ki Street. The judge’s name is Svi­at­lana Ban­daren­ka, and the state pros­e­cu­tor’s –Lud­mi­la Iva­nen­ka. Kat­siary­na Bary­se­vich was defend­ed by lawyers Andrei Macha­lau and Mikhail Bad­nar­chuk, and Art­siom Sarokin– by Vol­ha Bat­siuk.

    They were charged under Arti­cle 178 part 3 — «Dis­clo­sure of a med­ical secret entail­ing seri­ous con­se­quences»

    The fifth court ses­sion was held on Feb­ru­ary 25, after which the court adjourned until March 2. The next ses­sion was sched­uled for 10.30, where the par­tic­i­pants learned that the ver­dict would be pro­nounced the same day — at 16.00.

    The day before, on March 1, Mask­ous­ki dis­trict court denied TUT.BY jour­nal­ists accred­i­ta­tion for the announce­ment of the ver­dict, refer­ing to the lack of seats in the court­room and «unfa­vor­able epi­demi­o­log­i­cal sit­u­a­tion». Inde­pen­dent media, in par­tic­u­lar Onlin­er and Bela­PAN, were banned from the pub­lic announce­ment of the ver­dict.

    Фото: TUT.BY

    The press rep­re­sen­ta­tives — five peo­ple from state press only —  were the first to enter the court­room. The next were the fam­i­lies of Art­siom Sarokin and Kat­siary­na Bary­se­vich.

    Diplo­mats from the EU Del­e­ga­tion to Belarus were also allowed in the court­room.

    Basi­cal­ly, only fam­i­lies and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of accred­it­ed state-run media could go in. Friends and col­leagues had to stay behind.   A few of Kat­siary­na’s col­leagues were not allowed to enter the court­room because of their T‑shirts with her pho­to.

    Фото: TUT.BY

    — And if some­one faints from lack of oxy­gen —  comes the ques­tion.

    — There are many doc­tors here, — appar­ent­ly, col­leagues of Art­siom Sarokin are jok­ing.

    The ver­dict was announced at 14.00. Kat­siary­na Bary­se­vich was sen­tenced to six months in a penal colony and a fine of 100 basic units, and Art­siom Sarokin to two years in prison sus­pend­ed for a year and a fine of 50 basic units. Art­siom was released in the court­room on his own recog­ni­zance, and Kat­siary­na remained in cus­tody. Both are not deprived of the right to prac­tice their pro­fes­sion. Their phones will be con­fis­cat­ed.

    How did the tri­al go?

    The «zero per mille» tri­al began on Fri­day, Feb­ru­ary 19. That day, more than 100 peo­ple came to sup­port the doc­tor and the jour­nal­ist, but only few of them were able to get into the court­room — most­ly fam­i­lies, diplo­mats and some col­leagues.

    Pros­e­cu­tor Liud­mi­la Iva­nen­ka request­ed that the tri­al be held behind closed doors. The lawyers of the defen­dants, as well as Kat­siary­na and Art­siom them­selves, insist­ed on an open hear­ing, «so that the pub­lic knows what a jour­nal­ist and a doc­tor are being tried for.»

    Nev­er­the­less, judge Svi­at­lana Ban­daren­ka decid­ed to close the hear­ing for the pub­lic — «in order to avoid dis­clo­sure of legal­ly pro­tect­ed med­ical secrets and pre­lim­i­nary inves­ti­ga­tion data», as well as because «the case mate­ri­als con­tain med­ical doc­u­ments, includ­ing pre­vi­ous­ly unpub­lished ones». The case was heard behind closed doors, which were guard­ed by uni­formed police­men and plain­clothes offi­cers.

    Фото: Belta via Reuters

    On Feb­ru­ary 19, the court ques­tioned Ale­na Ban­daren­ka, Raman Ban­darenka’s moth­er. On the same day, as well as on Mon­day, Feb­ru­ary 22, the doc­tors of the Min­sk emer­gency hos­pi­tal gave evi­dence. Among them — the resus­ci­ta­tors who treat­ed the deceased Raman Ban­daren­ka, the doc­tor of lab­o­ra­to­ry diag­nos­tics who did a blood test for ethanol, and also, prob­a­bly, the doc­tor on duty who exam­ined Ban­daren­ka in the emer­gency room.

    On Feb­ru­ary 23 — the third day of the tri­al — Vol­ha Kucharen­ka, Raman’s cousin, was sum­moned to the court. Before sign­ing a non-dis­clo­sure agree­ment, she said that all the time Raman was in the hos­pi­tal, his fam­i­ly spoke pub­licly about his con­di­tion. His moth­er, Ale­na Ban­daren­ka, gave per­mis­sion to dis­trib­ute this infor­ma­tion. Accord­ing to Vol­ha, Bary­se­vich con­tact­ed her before pub­lish­ing the «zero per mille» arti­cle. «She received offi­cial per­mis­sion from me to pub­lish this infor­ma­tion. My aunt repeat­ed­ly said that she was not going to keep it a secret.»

    Kat­siary­na Bary­se­vich’s col­leagues, as well as the girl who was next to Raman Ban­daren­ka, before he was beat­en and tak­en away by unknown peo­ple, also tes­ti­fied at the tri­al that day. Accord­ing to her, Raman was sober that night, «there was no smell, I would have noticed it.»

    On Feb­ru­ary 24, there were no wit­ness­es near the court­room — most like­ly, their inter­ro­ga­tion was over, and the court moved on to the tes­ti­mo­ny of the defen­dants, the study of doc­u­ments and the debate of the par­ties.

    What hap­pened?

    The crim­i­nal case against Kat­siary­na Bary­se­vich and Art­siom Sarokin was opened on Novem­ber 19, 2020. They were accused of dis­clos­ing med­ical secrets, which, accord­ing to the Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­er­al’s Office, entailed seri­ous con­se­quences. The max­i­mum penal­ty under this arti­cle is three years in prison. On Novem­ber 13, Kat­siary­na Bary­se­vich pub­lished an arti­cle, where she referred to med­ical doc­u­ments and a doc­tor’s com­ment, stat­ing that no ethanol had been found in Raman Ban­darenka’s blood. The top offi­cials claimed that the deceased was drunk.

    Art­siom Sarokin, 37, is a Board cer­ti­fied anes­the­si­ol­o­gist of BSMP emer­gency hos­pi­tal… He worked the night when the beat­en Raman Ban­daren­ka was brought to hos­pi­tal, and pro­vid­ed him with an anes­thet­ic sup­port. Art­siom Sarokin has wife Natalia and three chil­dren: Mikhail, 9, Fio­dar, 6, and lit­tle Lia.

    Фото: читатели TUT.BY

    In April, TUT.BY jour­nal­ist Kat­siary­na Bary­se­vich will turn 37. She has been a jour­nal­ist for almost 15 years, spe­cial­iz­ing in legal issues: high-pro­file crim­i­nal cas­es and court pro­ceed­ings. Kat­siary­na repeat­ed­ly became the win­ner of many pro­fes­sion­al com­pe­ti­tions. In par­tic­u­lar, in 2015, the Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­er­al’s office award­ed her the win­ner’s diplo­ma «for pro­fes­sion­al­ism and jour­nal­is­tic skills». In 2020, the agency srat­ed a crim­i­nal case against her for her pro­fes­sion­al activ­i­ties.

    Belaru­sian human rights com­mu­ni­ty have rec­og­nized Bary­se­vich and Sarokin as polit­i­cal pris­on­ers, and Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al has called them pris­on­ers of con­science.

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