RFE/RL Reporter Fined Over Belarus Protest

July 11, 2011

HRODNA, Belarus -- An RFE/RL correspondent in western Belarus has been found guilty of taking part in an illegal protest and fined the equivalent of around $200, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Mikhail Karnevich was sentenced by a court in the city of Hrodna over a protest on July 3, the country's Independence Day.

Nearly 400 people were arrested across Belarus on July 3 when people took to the streets to express their discontent with President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's policies by clapping their hands.

"I was carrying out my professional duties, standing on Sovetskaya street and taking photographs from the side. I wasn't taking part in the protest action. They arrested me even though I showed my accreditation," Karnevich said.

Karnevich said the case was fabricated and that he would appeal.

Karnevich said one witness testified that he'd seen the correspondent being arrested on the opposite side of the street from where he had actually been standing.

"He wasn't sure if he had detained me -- he only said that my face was familiar," Karnevich said of a second purported witness, a policeman, who'd testified at the trial.

The fine represents about 40 percent of a month's per capita GDP in Belarus, according to World Bank figures.