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Travesty of Justice Reaches New Low in Belarus

Lawyer and Journalist Charged with “Extremism” for Passing on Publicly Available Information

Belarusian lawyer Yulia Yurhilevich (L) and journalist Pavel Mazheika, June 26, 2018. © Yulia Yurhilevich/Facebook and 2018 Visana

Belarusian lawyer Yulia Yurhilevich and journalist Pavel Mazheika face up to seven years in prison for sharing information widely available to the public.

In the latest example of the authorities targeting lawyers and journalists in Belarus, the two have been accused of “repeatedly aiding extremist activity” for sharing information about Yurhilevich’s disbarment and a court case – information included on government websites.

Yurhilevich is a defense attorney with 18 years of experience, well-known for representing victims of politically motivated prosecutions.

In February 2022, the regional bar association of Hrodna – a city near the Belarusian-Polish border – disbarred Yurhilevich for “systematic violation of the law.” According to, the disbarment was triggered by a complaint from the Hrodna region deputy prosecutor questioning her “professionalism.” In Belarus, bar membership is mandatory for practicing defense lawyers.

In August 2022, when Yurhilevich returned to Belarus after a stay in Poland, authorities detained her and raided her apartment. On the same day they detained Mazheika, an independent journalist and leader of a local independent group “City life center.”

During the first court hearing on July 10, the prosecution alleged that Mazheika and Yurhilevich “by prior conspiracy” shared the information about Yurhilevich’s disbarment and the trial of one of her clients Ales Pushkin, with a Poland-based broadcaster Belsat which authorities had designated “extremist.”

Notification about Yurhilevich’s disbarment and license termination is currently available on the website of Justice Ministry. The details of Ales Pushkin’s politically motivated trial and sentencing can also be easily found on the state media website.

Authorities claim that by sharing this publicly available information, Mazheika and Yurhilevich collaborated in “extremist activity” and “invalidated the values and goals of [Belarusian] society and the state” by “knowingly spreading false information.”

Belarusian authorities systematically prosecute independent journalists and human rights lawyers on spurious charges. At least 120 lawyers lost their licenses on politically motivated grounds.

According to Belarusian Association of Human Rights Lawyers, the case against Yurhilevich and Mazheika was orchestrated “exclusively to intimidate lawyers and prevent them from any publicity in their professional activities.”

At the court hearing, both Yurhilevich and Mazheika turned their backs to the courtroom in protest against this mockery of justice. Yurhilevich was wearing her prison robe with a label “punishment cell N2” on the back, indicating she was being isolated as a punishment during her pre-trial detention – a truly powerful illustration of the current state of judicial system in Belarus.

Today, the family of Ales Pushkin reported his sudden death in intensive care unit. He was serving his sentence in the same Hrodna prison N1 where Yurhilevich and Mazheika are currently held. 

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