Today, on 19 February, the trial of journalist Katerina Borisevich and doctor Artyom Sorokin has started in Minsk. They are accused of disclosing a medical secret by refuting the official version of investigation that Roman Bondarenko was drunk when he was beaten and died, “which entailed grave consequences expressed in increased tension in society, creating an atmosphere of mistrust in the competent state bodies, encouraging citizens to aggression and unlawful actions.” The accused face up to three years in prison. [Here are the major points you should know about the case.]
The court session is chaired by Svetlana Bondarenko, deputy chairman of the Moscovksy District Court for Criminal Cases. Katerina Borisevich is defended by lawyers Andrey Mochalov and Mikhail Bodnarchuk, Artyom Sorokin – by Olga Batyuk. Prosecutor is Lyudmila Ivanenko. During the trial, the judge decided that the case would be heard behind closed doors. This means that the public won’t be allowed to know what constituted a crime of the journalist and doctor, who told the truth about the “0 ‰ of alcohol” in Roman Bondarenko’s blood.
The trial will be held behind closed doors: “in order to avoid disclosure of medical secrets protected by law and data from the preliminary investigation”, and also because “the case materials contain medical documents, including those that have not been published before.” It means that even relatives of Katerina Borisevich and Artyom Sorokin will not be able to attend the meeting. The emergency hospital doctor has three small children, Katerina’s daughter, who was in court today, turned 18 without her mother.
Recall that journalists of independent media agencies were not accredited to the hearing. The trial was also attended by representatives of the embassies of the U.S., Germany, France, as well as the EU Delegation in Minsk. All those attending the hearing had to leave the courtroom. People were heard clapping and chanting “Katya! Artyom!” to support the journalist and the doctor.
Mother of Roman Bondarenko also came to support them, she was against closing the hearing. She earlier said: “I believe that Katerina and Doctor Sorokin did not violate anything, I gave my permission [to publish a medical document confirming that Roman Bondarenko was sober during the attack on him – Ed.]. I am an optimist, and I hope that justice will prevail.”
At 12.07 pm, Elena Bondarenko was summoned for questioning by the court. According to the logic of the process, it can be suggested that reading of the charges is over. At 1.10 pm, Elena Bondarenko left the courtroom, she cannot talk about what was happening there, because she had to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
Roman Bondarenko’s death and what happened afterwards
On 12 November, Roman Bondarenko died without regaining consciousness. The night before he was beaten by unknown people in a courtyard on Chervyakova Street in Minsk, known as “Square of Change”, where the young man lived. On 13 November, the Investigative Committee reported: “During the initial examination, along with bodily injuries, he [Roman Bondarenko] was diagnosed with alcohol intoxication.”
Almost simultaneously with this statement, a copy of a medical document appeared online, from which it followed that there was no alcohol in Roman Bondarenko’s blood. On the same day, talking to foreign journalists, citing the report by the Investigative Committee, Alexander Lukashenko said that Roman Bondarenko was drunk.
TUT.BY journalist Katerina Borisevich checked this information and, with reference to medical documents and a doctor’s comment, wrote an article titled: “Emergency hospital doctor: “Roman Bondarenko had 0 ‰ of alcohol, we found nothing.” The General Prosecutor’s Office announced the initiation of a criminal case into the death of Roman Bondarenko only on February 18, 2021. The investigation against Artyom Sorokin and Katerina Borisevich was initiated almost immediately – on November 19, 2020.
They were accused of disclosштп medical secrets, which entailed “grave consequences, expressed in increased tension in society, creating an atmosphere of mistrust in the competent state bodies, encouraging citizens to aggression and unlawful action.” At the same time, Elena Bondarenko, the mother of the deceased, agreed to make medical information about her son public.
Artem Sorokin is an anesthesiologist of an emergency care hospital, doctor of the highest category. He’s 37 years old. Colleagues speak of him as a professional. It was he who worked that night when Roman Bondarenko was brought to the hospital and provided him with anaesthetic procedures. Sorokin has his wife Natalya and three children: 9-year-old Misha, 6-year-old Fedor and little Leah, waiting for him at home.
In April, TUT.BY journalist Katerina Borisevich will turn 37. She has been working as a journalist for almost 15 years, specializing in legal topics: she writes about high-profile criminal cases, court proceedings. Katerina has repeatedly become a laureate of many professional competitions. Ironically, in 2015, the General Prosecutor’s Office awarded her the winner’s diploma “for professionalism and journalistic skills”. Last year, a criminal case was opened against Katerina for her professional activities.
Belarusian human rights activists recognized Katerina Borisevich and Artyom Sorokin as political prisoners; Amnesty International called them prisoners of conscience. Katerina’s colleagues from TUT.BY, Onliner, Komsomolskaya Pravda in Belarus, Novy Chas, BelaPAN and other independent media agencies were denied the opportunity to cover the trail. The official reason is “the limited number of seats in the courtroom and measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection.”
Photos: Belta via Reuters