Belarus Metal Musician Gets Three-Year Prison Sentence for Insulting Politician
Vladislav Novozhilov, the Belarus metal musician who goes under the alias "Lesley Knife" in the metal band Gods Tower, has received a three-year sentence over an online comment directed at a politician, which was deemed "insulting a representative of the authorities," per an English translation of a local news source Onliner.
The comment, which was deemed criminal, was made in August of 2020 where Novozhilov, who has served as the vocalist of the folk/doom metal band since their inception in 1992, compared the mind of the chairman of the Gomel regional executive committee, Gennady Solovey, to that of a hog.
In his defense, Novozhilov alleged he had no intention of directly insulting Solovey and instead referenced the works of 19th century Russian writer and satirist Mikhaeil Saltykov-Shchedrin, as reported by Flagshtok.
"For me, an official is a person in the civil service who must respect our rights. He is a representative of the government and the people. In the video, I understood that he was an official and a representative of the authorities. I watched his speech, he did not give a clear answer to the citizens' questions, I was disappointed and therefore left such a comment," argued Novozhilov (via Flagshtok), who noted the reference to the hog is that of a collective literary image.
Per Onliner, he told the judge, "This is my first time in such a situation and I don’t know what exactly needs to be said. The fate of my family depends on your decision, because I am the only breadwinner. The wife does not work, the children are underage, we rent an apartment. Therefore, if I am not in the family, she will actually be on the street. It depends on your decision whether I will pay taxes ... First of all, I would like to stay with the family and just work. If, of course, someone is interested in what I want ... There is nothing more to say."
The three-year sentence handed down was also the maximum possible sentence, which was requested by the prosecutor. Meanwhile, Solovey was not present at the court hearing, citing his business with work as the reason for his absence.
It appears Novozhilov will spend those three years in an "open institution," though reports of forced labor for political prisoners are not uncommon in Belarus, as is unfair treatment.
"For much of my time I was kept in solitary confinement but when they moved me to my last prison it was forbidden to talk to me. If someone started to speak to me, and I don't mean showing support for me or expressing some kind of solidarity, they would be immediately moved into worse conditions or sent to another colony," said Andrei Sannikov, a former political prisoner in Belarus, via Independent.
Sannikov was sentenced to five years of hard labor for participating in mass riots in 2011 after President Lukashenko won a fourth term in what many perceived as a fraudulent election where he garnered 80 percent of the votes. He was released after serving 16 months of the five-year sentence.