Ihar Lohvinau was been accused of selling books without the required state registration and now faces a heavy fine as well as a possible loss of his business in Minsk.
Supporters of Lohvinau claim that the charges were politically motivated and that his license was suspended illegally in 2013 following false accusations made by state officials.
In October 2013 Lohvinau was accused of ‘extremism’ by the country’s Ministry Of Information after the publisher released a controversial book of photographs which included images of Belarusian police assaulting protestors in 2011. Copies of the book were seized and destroyed by authorities and Lohvinau’s publishing license was temporarily suspended pending further investigation.
Lohvinau has previously received widespread support from the publishing world after winning the International Publishers Association’s Freedom to Publish award for his work in Belarus. Lohvinau has operated as an independent publisher since 2000, publishing a large body of literature that has a ‘focus on work by repressed Belarusian writers’.
According to local reporters Lohvinau has officially applied for state registration as a publisher on eight separate occasions, but has been rejected by authorities every time.
The authoritarian government of Belarus are now accused of attempting to oppress Lohvinau and his publishing business by bringing these charges against him. According to supporters the unfair treatment of Lohvinau is a direct result of his work with repressed writers in the country.
The publisher now fears that the trial may result in his business being closed, after authorities stated that they intended to recover financial loss from his business. It is believed that copies of dozens of books could be seized and destroyed.
Despite the negative outcome of his trial Lohvinau is said to be defiant, stating that he is determined to appeal the court’s decision.