The Minsk City Court has sentenced the editor-in-chief of the Belarusian opposition website Tut.by Maryna Zalotava, as well as the outlet’s general director Liudmila Chekina, to 12 years in jail. Both women were found guilty of tax evasion, as well as of inciting hatred and calling for actions against the national security of Belarus, according to a report from state-run news website BelTA.
In total, there were five defendants in the case. Only Zolatava and Chekina were held in custody. The editor of the Economics and Politics Department Volha Loika, correspondent Alena Tolkachova and legal advisor Ekaterina Tkachenka were released from custody on personal guarantees.
The case was heard behind closed doors.
Searches and arrests at Tut.by took place on 18 May 2021. Law enforcers came to the company’s offices in Minsk and other cities across the country, raided the homes of its employees, and searched representatives of partner organisations. Fifteen people were detained that day. Most of the suspects were later released from custody.
The media publication Nasha Niva wrote that on the eve of the verdict, Belarusian TV showed a propaganda film about Tut.by. The media outlet’s employees were accused of Russophobia, inflaming the situation in Belarus during the protests in 2020 and 2021, as well as inciting hatred and evading taxes. “The story uses interviews of the employees, who were at the time in detention and were in fact hostages. There is not a word from Liudmila Chekina in the almost one and a half hour long video and only one quote from Maryna Zalotava, most probably cut from the records of the investigation, where she states that the portal has always adhered to journalistic standards,” wrote Nasha Niva.