Belarus: New low as authorities slap solo LGBTI protester with fine for ‘mass’ protest

The Belarusian authorities have hit an absurd new low in persecuting peaceful LGBTI activists, Amnesty International said today after a court in Minsk found Viktoria Biran guilty of violating a mass public assemblies law for posing alone for a photo with a poster.

Viktoria’s friend took three photos of her standing in front of the Interior Ministry, the State Security Committee (KGB) and the House of Government buildings holding an A4 piece of paper with the words “YOU are fake”. CCTV recordings show that it took three seconds for Viktoria Biran and her friend to take the photos which were later posted on social media.

“Today’s court ruling is simply absurd. Viktoria was ‘protesting’ for three seconds and she was alone except for a friend who took the photos. It is just not conceivable that this can be taken seriously as a mass protest offence.

“This decision is as unjust as it is wrong and must be quashed as it directly violates the right to freedom of expression,” said Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The court of the Central District of Minsk found Viktoria Biran guilty of having breached the “procedure for the organization and holding of mass events” (Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of Belarus) and sentenced her to a fine of 367.5 Belarusian roubles ($185).

Viktoria Biran took the pictures on 24 May 2018 to protest against an anonymous article that appeared on the Interior Ministry site four days earlier which stated that the “LGBTI-community and all this struggle for their rights, and the very Day of the LGBTI-community – are just fakes.” This was apparently the Ministry’s reaction to the decision of the British Embassy in Belarus to raise the rainbow flag in solidarity with LGBTI people in the country.