Two people sentenced for online insults in Belarus

A theatre playwright and a former worker from the Minsk Automobile Plant were found guilty of using offensive language online in Belarus.

Andrei Karelin, a playwright, was sentenced to an administrative fine of 10 million Belarusian roubles (about £725) for two comments he had made on a forum of a popular Belarusian internet portal The comments reflected his negative attitude toward Belarusian police.

According to Karelin, he had to call the police when he was attacked and beaten in Minsk on 18 May this year, but said he did not receive proper assistance, and was offended by officers instead. Among other words he chose to describe the officers on the forum were “bastards” and “boors”. He also said they were “fat and imposing” and concluded that “all normal citizens hate” the police.

A district court in Minsk had two hearings on the case (on 11 July and 26 July) and sentenced Karelin to fines for “insulting an officer on duty”, despite the fact the allegedly insulted officers admitted at court they had not seen his online comments themselves.

The playwright denies his guilt saying he did not insult anyone, but merely expressed his indignation at lack of professionalism of Belarusian police officers. He started a website to crowd-fund the fines he calls “enormous” as they are equal to 3 months of his  salary.

Another Belarusian, Ruslan Mirzoev, got 7 days of administrative arrest for videos he posted. He became popular last year after he started posting online videos about daily life of workers of Minsk Automobile Plant (MAZ), one of the biggest enterprises in Belarus. Mirzoev was finally fired from the plant in July 2013, but he continued production of his videos.

Ruslan started his own video project, Chronicles of a District («Хроники района»), on YouTube, and made two videos about drug addicts, a prostitute and alcoholics, who live in Kurasoushchyna, the district of Minsk where he lives. On 9 August he was detained and sentenced to seven days of administrative arrest for using obscene words in those videos.

Andrei Aliaksandrau, Index on Censorship