Minsk: Police Detain Activists of Campaign for Protection of Freedom of Conscience
On 27 July in Minsk the police detained Zmitser Butenka and Andrei Litsvinau, activists of the campaign for protection of freedom of conscience, members of Minsk church New Life of the Association of Christian Denominations of Full Evangel in the Republic of Belarus. According to the information given to BelaPAN by the church lawyer Siarhei Lukanin, the youngsters were heading for St. Symon and Alena church in Nezalezhnastsi Square, where there they intended to collect signatures for amendment of the law on religion. However, at about 4 p.m. near Minsk hotel they were detained by the police.
Bear in mind that at this time all ways to the square were ringed by the police in connection with an oppositional action dedicated to the 17th anniversary of the State Sovereignty Declaration of Belarus. The policemen asked the youngsters to show what they had in their bags. In Litvinau’s bag they copies of the campaign courier. Then Butenka and Litsvinau were detained and taken to Maskouski borough police department of Minsk. There the policemen composed on them violation reports under article 22.9 of the Administrative Code (distribution of periodicals without the output data) and confiscated 28 copies of the courier. About three hours later the detainees were let go.
Siarhei Lukanin considers such actions of the police as lawless. ‘First of all’, he points, ‘Butenka and Litsvinau did not distribute anything’. According to the law, the violation reports must be considered by the court. However, the lawyer hopes that it will not happen. According to him, such detentions had taken place earlier, but the detainees were not tried. Secondly, the courier is not a periodical. ‘The law precisely defines the notion of periodical and its distinctions from other printed production. The fact that the police apply the Administrative Code even in relation to small leaflets is lawless. The only thing which makes me glad is that they act arbitrary and still have not passed any cases to court,’ the lawyer commented.
The campaign for protection of freedom of conscience started on 22 April. Its organizers intend to collect at least 50 000 signatures under an open letter to the president, the parliament and the Constitutional court calling them to make the law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations (enforced at the end of 2002) conform to the Constitution. According to Lukanin, more than 25 000 signatures have been already collected.