The trial on the case of journalist Katerina Borisevich and doctor Artyom Sorokin carries on. They are accused of disclosing a medical secret by refuting the official version of the investigation that Roman Bondarenko was drunk when he was beaten and died. The judge closed the hearings even though the mother of the deceased was against it. Both face up to three years in prison.
The first meeting took place on Friday, 19 February. Then the court decided to conduct the process behind closed doors. More than 100 people, including friends, relatives, colleagues, diplomats and ordinary Belarusians came to support Katerina and Artyom.
The second court hearing has begun at 10.30 am in the building of the House of Justice on Semashko Street. The trial is being led by judge Svetlana Bondarenko the state prosecution is represented by Lyudmila Ivanenko, Artem Sorokin is defended by lawyer Olga Batyuk, Katerina Borisevich – by Andrey Mochalov and Mikhail Bodnarchuk.
A witness – an emergency hospital doctor who treated Roman Bondarenko – was summoned to the courtroom. According to him, everyone who provided him with medical assistance will be called. The interrogation of Artyom Sorokin’s colleague lasted about 40 minutes. He signed a non-disclosure agreement.
“What to say? The worst thing happened much earlier than the “disclosure of medical secrets.” I’m glad I saw Artyom. He and Katerina are holding up,” he said.
By 12 o’clock the interrogation of three witnesses, including the attending physician Roman Bondarenko, ended.
What happened during the first hearing?
On February 19, more than 100 people gathered to support Katerina Borisevich and Artyom Sorokin – their colleagues, friends and concerned people. Few were able to get into the courtroom. Katerina’s colleagues from independent media were denied accreditation for the trial.
At the beginning of the trial, state prosecutor Lyudmila Ivanenko petitioned to hold the trial behind closed doors. The defence categorically disagreed: Roman Bondarenko’s mother Elena insisted on the openness of the meeting. Katerina and Artem supported the position of the lawyers. “I want society to know why the journalist and the doctor are being tried, so I support the lawyer’s petition,” said Kateryna Borisevich.
Nevertheless, 10 minutes later, judge Svetlana Bondarenko decided to close the hearing: “in order to avoid disclosing medical secrets protected by law and data from the preliminary investigation”, and also because “the case materials contain medical documents, including those previously unpublished.”
On the first day, they managed to question Elena Bondarenko, the mother of the deceased Roman, as well as two emergency hospital doctors, one of them is a resuscitator. Lawyers suggest that the case can be finalized before the end of this week.
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.”