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The 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 hasnt inflicted any material or moral damage, hasnt 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 wasnt 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 didnt see any official indications of their status: they didnt 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 didnt 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 (Kovalenkos 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 Kovalenkos 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, dont 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. Thats not German, French, or Chinese. Thats the native language of our country. Im ethnic Ukrainian but I should say that Ukraine didnt 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 didnt let us inside the courthouse.
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...






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