Editor-in-chief of Nasha Niva Belarusian newspaper given 2.5 years in penal colony
MINSK. March 16 (Interfax) - A Minsk court on Tuesday handed down sentences to editor-in-chief of the Belarusian opposition newspaper Nasha Niva Yegor Martinovich and director of the media outlet's advertising and marketing department Andrei Skurko.
"Nasha Niva editors Yegor Martinovich and Andrei Skurko, who are political prisoners, have been given 2.5 years each in a penal colony," the unregistered Belarusian human rights center Viasna said on Tuesday.
Martinovich and Skurko were charged with "causing large-scale property damage without signs of misappropriation by a group of persons acting by previous agreement." This crime carries up to five years of limited freedom for up to five years, or imprisonment for the term in full.
Martinovich and Skurko were detained on June 8, 2021 on suspicion of committing an economic crime and were remanded into custody. According to the case files, Martinovich and Skurko, who are the newspaper's senior employees, used Skurko's apartment as an office for their business operations from May 2017 to June 2021. At the same time, they failed to sign contracts in order to start paying their utility bills using tariffs for legal entities and continued paying their utility bills using tariffs for individuals. Prosecutors estimated that the Minskenergo energy company and the Minskvodokanal water supply company lost over 10,000 Belarusian rubles as a result of the men's actions. Skurko and Martinovich have fully reimbursed for the damage caused by them.
The social media accounts and Internet channels of Nasha Niva were designated as extremist materials in November 2021. Nasha Niva was declared an extremist organization in Belarus.
The Nasha Niva newspaper was founded in 1906 and was revived in 1991. Its online version has been available since 1997.