Kiev, July 17, 2018--A Minsk court today found Belarusian journalist Dzmitry Halko guilty of assaulting a police officer, sentenced him to four years' labor at a low-security prison colony, and ordered him to pay restitution of 850 Belarusian rubles (US$430) to the officer, according to Halko's wife, Julia Garkusha, and media reports. Halko was released pending a decision by an appellate court, Garkusha told CPJ.
"We call on Belarusian authorities not to contest journalist Dzmitry Halko's appeal," said CPJ's Europe and Central Asia research associate, Gulnoza Said, in New York. "By handing such a heavy sentence to a critical journalist, Belarus has demonstrated how low it will sink in violating press freedom."
Halko, also known as Dmitriy Galko, said during the trial that he was deprived of food and water and was handcuffed and held in a small, concrete, solitary cell for hours at a time while in pre-trial detention, the English-language Kyiv Post reported. The journalist denied the charge and said he believes it is in retaliation for his work, his family previously told CPJ.
The Belarusian Interior Ministry did not respond to CPJ's request via email for comment.