The grounds for criminal prosecution against Zmicier Paliyenka has been his participation in the peaceful action of cyclists Critical Mass that took place on April 29, 2016. The action was interrupted forcefully, with disproportionate use of force by police. As a result, six participants of the action, including Zmicier Paliyenka were detained.
On October 12, 2016, Zmicier Paliyenka was convicted according to article 364 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus (violence or threat of violence against an employee of law enforcement agencies) and article 343, part 2 (production and distribution of pornography materials or items of pornographic character).
Human rights defenders are convinced that the charge of violent actions against an employee of law enforcement agencies during the cycling ride of the Critical Mass, as well as the charge that Z. Paliyenka had published a pornography video on his social page were not proved in court and were not supported with sufficient evidence (see Expert Conclusion in the case of Zmicier Palieynka).
Taking into consideration these circumstances, and underlining the failure of the state to exercise the positive obligation to ensure the rights to peaceful assembly and free expression, and to defend participants of peaceful assembly, human rights defenders came to the conclusion: the conviction of Zmicier Palieynka directly stems from his exercise of the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
On April 7, 2017, the Zavodski district court of Minsk quashed the suspension of enforcement of the initial sentence. Zmicier Paliyenka is to be sent to the correctional colony to serve a term of deprivation of freedom for one year and a half (including the time he has already stayed under arrest before the trial in 2016).
These circumstances allow us to conclude that the authorities used political motives in order to prosecute Z. Paliyenka case. Having in mind also the circumstances that have served as the ground for abolition of the suspension (namely, liability imposed on Z. Paliyenka according to art. 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offences for his exercise of the right to peaceful assembly, and ungrounded administrative charge according to art. 17.1 of the Code of Administrative Offences), we declare:
The restriction of freedom of Zmicier Paliyenka allows us to qualify this public activist as a political prisoner.
We demand that the authorities of Belarus should immediately release him.
Human Rights Center Viasna
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Belarusian Association of Journalists
Center for Legal Transformation
Committee for Defense of the Repressed Salidarnasc
Belarus Human Rights House named after Barys Zvozskau
Belarusian Documentation Center