#FreeViasna: Weekly news digest on Viasna’s imprisoned human rights defenders
On September 17, dozens of Belarusian and international human rights groups launched #FreeViasna, the campaign of solidarity with the imprisoned human rights activists of Viasna. Here’s the latest news about the Viasna members held behind bars.
On September 24, an interactive dialogue on Belarus took place as part of the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council. High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet presented her interim report on the situation in Belarus, which, among other things, mentions the imprisoned human rights activists of Viasna. Representatives of European countries and NGOs also called for the release of the Viasna activists.
Increasingly severe restrictions on civic space and fundamental freedoms: UN hosts interactive dialogue on Belarus
Over 650 individuals in Belarus are now believed to be imprisoned because of their opinions – among them, members of the opposition, human rights defenders, journalists, protesters and activists, including the chair of well-known human rights group Viasna.
Leanid Sudalenka celebrated his 55th birthday behind bars
Representatives of international organizations congratulated human rights activist Leanid Sudalenka on his anniversary.
Happy birthday! Human rights activists from different countries congratulate Leanid Sudalenka on his 55th anniversary
We know that there were threats and dirty attacks and trials and anticipation of an irreversibly impending reckoning, or is it more correct to say – the highest assessment of efficiency? Efficiency in something for which, from ancient times, some have received applause and others were cursed, some received prizes, and others – prison terms.
Sudalenka told in his letters to a fellow activist in Homieĺ, Vasil Paliakou, about the progress of his criminal trial held behind closed doors since September 3.
“The verdict is already in the air. Judging by how [the trial] is progressing, the judge regrets that there is no place to go wild. He could have given more.”
“I think the girls (Lasitsa and Tarasenka) will not be convicted under Part 1 [of Art. 342]. Tatsiana will have to serve another six months. As for Maryia – we have suspense here. The minimum penalty under Part 2 is several months. I will be given the maximum term – minus a few months because of my child. So, the ‘discharge’ is the spring of 2023. And then who knows what.”
Ales Bialiatski turned 59
Birthday greetings and words of support were sent to Ales Bialiatski by Vice-President of the European Parliament and his ‘godparent’ Nicola Beer, Paris Mayor’s deputy for human rights and anti-discrimination Jean-Luc Romero-Michel, human rights activists Ane Tusvik Bonde, Martin Uggla, Anar Mammadli, Sacha Koulaeva, Talekan Ismailova and others.
Ales Bialiatski’s wife received his first reply to her letters. According to Natallia Pinchuk, this is the only letter in two months of imprisonment which says that Ales has received a letter from her.
“So this is the only letter he received from me,” Natallia said.
According to Natallia, Ales does not upset her with negative information, writing that “everything is fine.” The human rights activist sends greetings to everyone and says that he is now reading Haruki Murakami’s A Wild Sheep Chase.
“You lose when you lose hope”. Marfa Rabkova sent a letter from prison
In a letter dated September 15, the coordinator of Viasna’s volunteer service Marfa Rabkova writes that her health is relatively good, urging her fellow activists “not to despair and not to give up.”
“You lose when you lose hope. And although there are too many reasons for this – we must only respond to them with the brightest and most sincere smile. Justice is sure to win. We need to keep our dignity, instead of becoming embittered, and be above all these adversities,” the human rights activist writes.
Amnesty Eurasia launched an e-petition for the immediate release of Marfa Rabkova, which can be signed by anyone.
Valiantsin Stefanovich: “I know that you are doing everything in your power to support us”
Valiantsin Stefanovich sent a letter from behind bars dated September 18.
Valiantsin says he reads a lot, including contemporary Belarusian authors. He also listens to the TV as a background, but carefully watches the news – both Russian and Belarusian.
The human rights activist also wrote that he knew about the #FreeViasna campaign:
“I know about the campaign in our support. I never doubted it. I have always believed in you, my friends, I know that you are doing everything in your power to support us. These efforts will sooner or later bear fruit. I know that.”
Valiantsin writes that he only receives mail once in a while, but is sure that he is supported by many people:
“Although I do not receive letters of support, I know that many people write to me. All this gives me strength and power. I know that everything I did, everything we do, is not in vain.”
Valiantsin Stefanovich’s wife Alina, who has only received a few letters from her husband, also notes problems in correspondence. The fourth letter, received by Alina Stefanovich on September 23, is dated August 23.
“Such things do not happen by chance. Valiantsin also let me know that he was receiving very few letters, in fact only from his family. We don't know if he receives all the letters from his family, from me, his sister, his mother. And he almost never receives anything sent by friends and colleagues. That is, the letters do not travel in both directions, it cannot be a coincidence,” the human rights activist's wife told Radio Racyja.
Uladzimir Labkovich sends greetings to everyone. It is known that he has had a cold, but is cheerful and eats well from what he receives in food parcels. Uladzimir’s eyesight has significantly deteriorated due to lack of light in the cell.
There is still no news from Viasna volunteers Andrei Chapiuk and Tatsiana Lasitsa.
Send your open letters of solidarity and support to us at email@example.com or via Telegram at @spring96info, and we will send them to the imprisoned members of Viasna. Some will be published on the website and our social media accounts.
Continue to write letters of solidarity to our colleagues in prison: