TUT.BY editor-in-chief, sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment
Date of birth: 6 November 1977
Date of detention: 18 May 2021
Art. 361 of the Criminal Code — Calls for actions aimed at causing harm to the national security of the Republic of Belarus
Art. 130 of the Criminal Code — Incitement to hatred
Sentence: 12 years
Penalty: imprisonment in a general-security penal colony
Prison sentence start date: 31 July 2023
Judge: Valiantsina Ziankevich
Prosecutor: Tatsiana Hrakun
Prison: Penal colony No. 4
Godparent: Alois Rainer, member of the German Bundestag
Maryna Zolatava was the editor-in-chief of TUT.BY, the largest Belarusian independent online media.
She joined TUT.BY in 2004 and soon became its editor-in-chief. Zolatova loves Balkan culture and knows the Bulgarian language. She spends her free time listening to Balkan music.
In 2019, Zolatava was sentenced to a heavy fine in a criminal case under Article 425 of the Criminal Code ('Inaction of an official') in connection with alleged unauthorized access to information of the BelTA government-owned news agency. Human rights defenders believe that the criminal case was politically motivated.
On May 18, 2021, Maryna Zolatava was arrested as a defendant in a criminal case initiated against TUT.BY for 'tax evasion on an especially large scale' (Part 2 of Article 243 of the Criminal Code).
In October 2022, the KGB included Zolatova in the 'List of persons involved in terrorist activities'.
Maryna Zolatava is a finalist of the 2022 Belarusian Human Rights Community Award in the Journalist of the Year nomination.
Zolatava was charged under the following articles of the Criminal Code:
- Part 3 of Article 130 ('Inciting racial, national, religious or other social hatred or enmity on the racial, national, religious, linguistic or another social basis, committed by a group of persons or entailing grave consequences');
- Part 3 of Article 361 (calls for actions aimed at causing harm to the national security of the Republic of Belarus, made using the media or the global computer network Internet).
Eventually, the accusation of tax evasion under Article 243 of the Criminal Code was removed.
On January 9, 2023, the Minsk City Court began the trial of the TUT.BY case. The trial was held behind closed doors from the very beginning. On March 17, 2023, Judge Valiantsina Ziankevich sentenced Maryna Zolatava, the former editor-in-chief of TUT.BY, and Liudmila Chekina, the former general director of TUT.BY, to 12 years of imprisonment in a general-security penal colony.
On July 31, 2023, the Supreme Court heard an appeal in the TUT.ВY case. Judge Ihar Liubavitski upheld the verdict and dismissed the appeal.
On January 17, the Minsk Municipal Court announced the verdict in the case of TUT.BY, the largest news outlet in Belarus TUT.BY. The former editor-in-chief Maryna Zolatava and former general director Liudmila Chekina each received 12 years in jail.