Musician Vladislav Novozhilov (known as Lesley Knife), a member of the band Gods Tower, was sentenced on 21 June 2021 to three years of restriction of freedom in an open correctional institution. The sentence is a result of what the Belarusian authorities have deemed to be “insulting a representative of the authorities” relating to a Facebook comment from August 2020, reported Loudwire.
“Sentencing musician Vladislav Novozhilov to prison for his online comments contravenes his right to freedom of expression and opinion, a basic human right guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said Emily D’Alterio, Freemuse Communications Manager. “Freemuse urges the Belarusian authorities to revoke three-year sentence and respect Vladislav’s right to freedom of opinion and expression.”
The artist was charged with Article 369 of Belarus’ Criminal Code for insulting a government official because of the comments made by Novozhilov on social media in August 2020 about the Gomel regional executive committee Gennady Solovyov.
After watching a YouTube video of Solovey answering citizens’ questions, Novozhilov posted a comment on Facebook accusing Solovey of not responding to citizens’ requests and calling the chairman “unreasonable” and a “male pig”.
According to Flagshtok, during the hearing, Novozhilov said he had no intention of insulting Solovey but referenced the comparison from the works of writer and satirist Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin. The artist added that he did not have Solovey in mind when he made a comment, but the situation reminded the works of Saltykov-Shchedrin.
A three-year sentence is a maximum sentence for this type of offence, and the prosecutor requested it.
Solovey was absent at the court hearing because of his work.
Charter 97 reports that Novozhilov was previously arrested for eight days on 19 September 2020, after the artist performed at a concert.
Freemuse’s State of Artistic Freedom 2021 report spotlights seven artists known to be imprisoned in Belarus in 2020. In addition, dozens of arrested artists testified about their humiliating treatment and beatings while in prisons.
Freemuse urges the Belarusian authorities to revoke a three-year maximum prison sentence and respect Novozhilova’s right to freedom of expression.