Dziyana Seradzjuk: The man who refused to perjure and I hugged goodbye

EuroBelarus Information Service

Dziyana Seradzjuk, EuroBelarus.Info journalist was declared not guilty by the court of Peršamajski district of Minsk. She was accused of participating in an unsanctioned rally.

Dziyana was facing a fine or administrative arrest. But suddenly the sitting took an unpredictable twist: the witnesses testified that the processes of prosecution were falsified. As a result, the court declared Dziyana Seradzjuk innocent.

It is a unique case for Belarus as journalists and civil society activists get clear of charges once in a blue moon.

Our colleague talked about what she feels after the first court trial in her life and what impact the words of truth have on people in her interview with the EuroBelarus Information Service.

— Witnesses refused to forswear, the judge watched the entire live video by TUT.BY portal, which made it evident that the accusations were groundless. Unfortunately, it might still be not enough in Belarus to close the case. I cannot logically explain the situation.

— Tell us about your defense strategy.

—  Tatiana Lishankova, my lawyer, drew attention to the violations of the legal norms in the way reports and protocols were drawn up. We did not focus on the fact that I was a journalist, even though it was voiced during the sitting.

— It was an important moment when the witnesses withdrew their testimonies.

— Yes, the witnesses were not police officers but construction workers from a site nearby. It must have made a great difference from other cases.

The first witness — Uladzimir Kanshyn, welder — tried to perjure and to stick to the protocol. But he failed to say anything definite or explain the situation.

The second witness, Dzmitry Chabalkin works as a house painter and bricklayer. When the judge asked if he knows the defendant he began to look around and asked me in surprise: “Is that you?” Dzmitry, just as the previous witness, confirmed that the protocol was brought to them already filled in. Then they put down his personal data in handwriting. During the sitting Dzmitry Chabalkin testified that it is a falsification and called for people to not perjure against the innocent.

And when the judge announced ‘not guilty’, he even started to hug me. We said our goodbyes as friends.

— What was the reaction of Uladzimir Kańshyn to the testimony of the second witness?

— He started to express agreement with his colleague that the protocols were brought for them to sign only. Also the police told the “witnesses” that they won’t have to go to court, they only need to sign the protocols. Dzmitry Chabalkin was complaining that he is forced to go around the courts as a witness today and tomorrow as well.

— What conclusions did you draw from this experience?

— This is my first trial, I hesitated whether to go as I know the statistics. But I wanted to prove the truth, I even turned to a lawyer. My conclusion is that we must try to contend for the truth, if we are sure of it. Yet I understand that journalists  in Belarus are, unfortunately, defenseless, citizens are also not protected from system of police and courts.

— Has any fear of work “in the field” appeared?

— This is my job... There’s nothing to be afraid of.

I also want to thank everyone who supported me. However, I am disappointed that so many  people who participated in the protests against the Decree №3 on March 15 were unjustly found guilty.

— Are you planning to demand compensation for moral damage?

— I haven’t thought about it yet. I might hold accountable the police officers who falsified the reports.