On Tuesday, 2 March, the court announced the verdict for TUT.BY journalist Katerina Borisevich and emergency hospital doctor Artem Sorokin. Borisevich was sentenced to six months in prison and a fine of $1,100/€925. Sorokin received a two-year prison sentence suspended for a year and a fine of 550/€460. He was released in a courtroom, Borisevich remains in custody.
Katerina and Artem were found guilty of “disclosing medical secrets which entailed grave consequences.” The trial was held behind closed doors, and we don’t know what evidence was presented by the prosecution. We know how Katya worked on the article, and we told you about it.
On the morning of 13 November, Katerina was tasked with verifying the authenticity of a medical document published online which indicated that there was no alcohol in the late Roman Bondarenko’s blood. After a while, an article was published on TUT.BY: “Emergency hospital doctor: “Roman Bondarenko had 0 ‰ of alcohol, we found nothing.”
The family of Roman Bondarenko had and has no claims either to Katya or to doctor Artem Sorokin, who confirmed the authenticity of the document to our journalist. Moreover, Roman’s cousin said that the family had given permission to publish materials related to Roman’s health.
We, journalists, editors and all TUT.BY employees, are outraged by the verdict. We consider it unlawful and unjust. The only fair decision, in our opinion, would be an acquittal.
Moreover, we consider the very fact of initiating a criminal case against Katerina Borisevich and doctor Sorokin, as well as their prolonged detention, outrageous, cynical and absurd. Firstly, information about the health state of Roman Bondarenko was made public not only by the persons involved in the case, but also by numerous other sources, including representatives of the authorities.
Secondly, it seems obvious that “increased tension in society” [the wording of the prosecutor’s office] was caused not by the fact that there was no alcohol in Roman’s blood, but by the fact that the young man was beaten to death by unknown persons. After all, a spontaneous action in memory of Roman took place in the courtyard on Chervyakov Street on the evening of 12 November, long before Katerina’s article was published.
While the absence of a criminal case [it was initiated only on 18 February, a day before the start of the trial against Borisevich and Sorokin], as well as the arrests in connection with the violent death of Roman Bondarenko, and the lack of any reaction to journalistic investigations about the events of 11 November in the “courtyard of changes” could just contribute to “creating an atmosphere of mistrust in the competent state bodies”.
We are also convinced that it is the prosecution and the guilty verdict in regard to Katerina Borisevich and doctor Artyom Sorokin that can undermine the credibility of government agencies.
We believe that the verdict is both personal revenge for Katerina Borisevich’s work and an attempt to put pressure on TUT.BY and other independent media.
We demand to immediately release Katerina Borisevich and reconsider the court’s decision. We demand that justice be returned to Belarus!
Roman Bondarenko’s death and what happened afterwards
How did it all start? What exactly are Borisevich and Sorokin accused of? Why does the accusation seem strange? What happened at Square of Change? Learn the answers to these and other questions here.
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 Artem 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 Artem 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.”
Dear readers, if you also consider the sentence unlawful and unfair, please fill in the feedback form at the bottom of the page on TUT.BY [What is your name? Where are you from? Your phone or e-mail (optional). Your message]. *By clicking on “send”, you consent to the collection and processing of your data. We will count how many people have reacted and will report back later. We will be grateful if you explain your position and tell us why you disagree with the verdict, you can also write words of support to Katerina Borisevich and Artem Sorokin.