Pavel Dobrovolsky, journalist of the Belarusian news website TUT.BY, was detained and beaten by police as he was working covering the so-called “graffiti case” on 25 January in Minsk.

Before the trial several activists popped up a banner saying “No to political persecution” and started shouting “Art is not a crime” in the courtroom. After a minute or so they were forcibly taken out of the courtroom by police. Dobrovolsky, who was standing next to the doors, began filming a video as the young men were forced into another room. He got detained together with the activists despite showing his press card to the police officers.

Those who remained outside said they could hear the detainees being beaten in the room where they had been taken. Afterwards they were taken to a police station, where two protocols – for “contempt of court” and “disobedience to police” – were filed against them. As Pavel told his colleagues later, his mobile phone was confiscated and all the data was deleted. Three young men were also fined. The spokesman of the Frunze police station where the three were brought remains unavailable for comment. The spokesman for Minsk police Alexander Lastouski said he would comment on the situation later.

The “graffiti case” is a case against five graffiti artists who were detained on 11 January 2015 on charges of hooliganism for a series of street art. The artists plead guilty and repaid the damage. Court hearing against them started today.