17 Mar 2023 18:30

Top managers of Belarus's tut.by news website sentenced to 12 years in jail

MINSK. March 17 (Interfax) - The Minsk City Court has sentenced two former employees of Tut By Media LLC, General Director Lyudmila Chekina and Editor-in-Chief Marina Zolotova, to 12 years in prison, the Belarusian Prosecutor General's Office said on Friday.

"Zolotova has been convicted of spreading materials with public calls for seizure of state power, violent change of the constitutional system of our country, calls on foreign states, foreign and international organizations, for actions to the detriment of the national security of the Republic of Belarus, committed using mass media and the Internet, as described in Part 3 of Article 361 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, and Chekina has been convicted of organizing the aforesaid actions," the Prosecutor General's Office said in a statement.

Zolotova has also been found guilty of intentional actions aimed at inciting social animosity and divide on the grounds of particular social background committed by a group of individuals, as described in Part 3 of Article 130 of the Criminal Code of Belarus, and Chekina guilty of organizing such actions, it said.

Additionally, Chekina has been convicted of tax evasion by way of intentionally underrating a tax base, specifically through submitting some knowingly false data in tax returns (calculations), which caused damage in an especially large amount under Part 2 of Article 243 of the Belarusian Criminal Code.

For the cumulative offenses, Zolotova and Chekina have both been sentenced to 12 years in a standard security penal colony. Chekina has been additionally ordered to pay a fine of 1,000 basic units, which translates to 37,000 Belarusian rubles, and banned from taking any roles involving performance of any organizing, managerial or administrative duties for a period of five years.

"The sentence is not yet in force and may be appealed or contested in an appellate court," the Prosecutor General's Office said.

In May 2021, the Belarusian Ministry of Information blocked the tut.by website without a court ruling. On August 13, 2021, Minsk's Central District Court declared the online resource extremist. One year later, Tut By Media was recognized as an extremist organization in Belarus. The court ruled to dissolve the limited liability company and prohibit the use of the edition's symbols and attributes.