Blog written for Amnesty International by Belarusian youth activist Ales Charnyshou, who was sentenced to two years of 'restricted freedom' on 22 April 2008.
On April 23, 2008 I was sentenced to two years of 'restricted freedom' for participating in a rally in support of entrepreneurs.
The action was intended to draw public attention - and the attention of the national authorities - to the contents of a decree issued by the President of Belarus that significantly worsened the situation for small businesses.
I am not a businessman. But as a person with an active, open attitude, I found it necessary to participate in this action. All the more so because I link my future to business activities and the error of the decree was obvious to me.
During the rally, about 1,500-2,000 people marched with banners from the central square of Minsk to the House of Government.
Unfortunately, my participation in this event turned into 15 days of detention and criminal punishment under the so-called "trial of 14", resulting in a sentence of 'restricted freedom'.
Since the commencement of criminal proceedings against me, my life has changed dramatically.
After sentencing, I was obliged to have a permanent place of work (without the right to quit), to regularly register at the police station and to be at home every day after 8pm and all weekends and public holidays.
This was all under the control of the police, whose officers had the right to check my presence at home or work at any time.
According to the sentence, I had no right to travel, not only abroad, but also outside the city. I was not allowed to attend any concerts or football matches or other social events.
The slightest infringement, including meeting with friends over a pint of beer (which, incidentally, I love very much ☺) carries a formal warning. After the third such warning, law enforcement agencies are entitled to change the punishment following another trial.
Fortunately I have not reached that stage. I must admit that the police officers, while carrying out their duties, treated me rather humanely. I would like to believe that they understood the uncertainty of my situation.
On June 15, 2009 the terms of my punishment was changed (reduced). It is now "corrective" work, which means the continuation of work at my normal job, while paying 15% of my earnings to the state. As before, my rights are restricted (for example, I have no right to travel abroad).
I have been following Amnesty International's activities and I am grateful to them for paying so much attention to our trial, and for issuing the statement in May 2009 in which we were named as “prisoners of conscience.”
I hope that an amnesty will be applied to me and others involved in the "trial of 14". At the moment, despite everything that has happened, I am optimistic about the future and that is what I am wishing you.