Belarusian Prosecutors Seek 18 Months In Prison For RFE/RL Correspondent

MINSK -- Prosecutors have told a court in Minsk that they are seeking an 18-month prison term for RFE/RL correspondent Aleh Hruzdzilovich for taking part in mass protests against the 2020 presidential election.

As the trial kicked off on March 2 at the Soviet district court, judges barred many supporters, friends, and colleagues of Hruzdzilovich from attending the proceedings even though there were many empty places.

Hruzdzilovich's wife, Maryana, was in attendance at the court but was not allowed to speak to her husband, while a journalist from Russia's Sputnik new agency was allowed to be near the glass cage where Hruzdzilovich sat.


The plaintiff in the case, the Mensktrans city transportation agency, told the court that Hruzdzilovich "caused financial damage" to the company by taking part in three unsanctioned rallies, which cost it business.

Mensktrans has demanded Hruzdzilovich pay more than $20,000 "in compensation."

Hruzdzilovich has denied the charge, saying he was at the rallies in a working capacity as a journalist.

At one demonstration, he said he was working as an correspondent with accreditation issued by the Foreign Ministry, while at the other two protests he was working as a correspondent for the Narodnaya volya (People's will) newspaper.

An editor at Narodnaya volya, Yosif Syaredzich, corroborated Hruzdzilovich's testimony, saying he had been assigned by the newspaper to report from the rallies in question.

Hruzdzilovich was arrested in December 2021 as Belarusian authorities continued their harsh crackdown on independent media, rights activists, and democratic institutions in the wake of the protests against the official results, which handed authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka a sixth term in office.

The opposition and West say the vote was rigged and that opposition candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya won the election. Thousands of people have been detained by security forces in the crackdown.

RFE/RL President Jamie Fly has condemned the case, saying that "journalism is not a crime.”