Trial of Kovalenko as Witnessed by a Retiree
On Friday, one more Belarusian joined the
list of political prisoners – Sergei Kovalenko. Tried for violations of
the conditions of the suspended sentence, which he received for putting
white-red-white flag on the municipal New Year Tree, Sergei was sentenced
to a harsh punishment: a year and 11 months in strict regime colony.
The sentence is indeed severe if one takes
into consideration that Sergei hasn’t inflicted any material or moral
damage, hasn’t murdered or beaten up anyone. No one, in fact, has fallen
victim to his “crime” or suffered. It should also be mentioned that four
persons lived in dependence on Sergei: his wife, two little children,
and retired mother. And there have been cases in Belarus when even murderers
were given a less severe sentence...
The court trial itself was no less severe. The visitors were blocked in
a small corner in the hallway and treated in an extremely rude way; they
were not allowed to the court room; the defendant wasn’t given the medical
assistance (Sergei was on the protest fast); the judge needed an interpreter
from the state language... AntoninaPivonos who was in
the courthouse during the entire trial reports about all that:
- The first thing we saw when we came to the court house was a security
gate. One had to go through it to get to the courthouse. And only those
who came to the trial of Kovalenko had to go through it. There were a
lot of law enforcement officers. But we didn’t see any official indications
of their status: they didn’t have badges, a lot of people were not wearing
uniform. Instead many of them wore hoodies so that it was hard to even
see the face.
Sergei was so shockingly skinny. He lost around 25-30 kilograms. The emergency
(medical assistance) came several times. The first time they were strange:
the men who didn’t look like doctors. The second time when the emergency
was called, the doctor said Sergei needed hospitalization as he had dystrophy.
He indeed was so pale and skinny... He could barely talk, basically he
almost whispered. The policemen were blocking him so that we would not
see him. I asked them: is he a habitual offender or a rapist? Those are
less guarded than this guy that weighs 25-30 kilograms. Being punished
for white-red-white flag. Is he more dangerous than habitual offenders?
The answer I received was “Yes, he is more dangerous”. The first two days
it was more or less tolerable. Our reporters could even take photos. But
then this outrageous blocking of people in the hall started, and the trial
was practically held in camera. In fact, it was a revenge for the white-red-white
flag that Alena (Kovalenko’s wife) brought to the court on the second
day and wore on her neck. They told us then: “You have only yourselves
to blame”. He was imprisoned for the flag, and for that flag they made
the trial in camera. The last two days we had to enter the courthouse
and then say where we were going. They segregated the people. Everyone
who came to Kovalenko’s trial had to go the right on the second floor
where two rows of 6-7 policemen each blocked the entrance to the trial
hall. We were not allow to go anywhere without the escort, even to the
bathroom. I was escorted by a lady. I asked her if she was going to take
my pants off at the bathroom. “No, no, don’t worry”, she said. I tried
to get to the court registry and to the office of the presiding judge.
But that was impossible! They said it was not allowed.
The most shocking thing was that they needed an interpreter to the official
state language. Moreover, they had to look for a more qualified expert.
In my opinion, when there are two official state languages the civil servants
simply have to know them both. At least the judges. That’s not German,
French, or Chinese. That’s the native language of our country. I’m ethnic
Ukrainian but I should say that Ukraine didn’t experience such a situation
even in the 1960s.
I would also like to mention that the law enforcement officers were extremely
rude. When I tried to cut my way to the court registry I got a blow in
my leg. Before that almost everyone was kicked out of the court house.
Only his wife and some elderly lady from the family were allowed to stay.
Even his mother was rudely pushed out. Finally, they brought me the Complaints
Book where I left my complaint that the policeman didn’t let us inside
On the last day I came with my own chair. The trial was supposed to start
at 10 am, and I came at 9.10 am. I asked whether I could get in but was
not allowed to enter the room as there were not free sits. I said I had
my own chair. But they replied that I would need a wooden chair while
I only had a plastic one. I had to sit in the corridor on that day. It
was very, very hard for the people to hear the sentence...