Mass arrests of activists of Union of Poles in Belarus
The people coming to support Tereza Sobal, the head of the Polish House in Ivyanets, and not to allow the authorities to take away the building are being detained and arrested.
The website charter97.org learnt from Andrzej Poczobut, a famous journalist, activist of the Union of Poles in Belarus, unrecognized by the authorities. According to him, more than 100 activists of the Union of Poles are going to visit Ivyanets (the Minsk region) today. Road traffic police began to stop their cars, check IDs and search vehicles. It has been reported about 33 peopel detained – 9 people in Shchuchyn, 4 near the village Pershai (the Valozhyn disitrict), 19 kilometres from Ivyantes, 20 – in the town of Valozhyn.
Later, the number of people detained in the Valozhyn militia department has reached 43. Militia check people’s IDs and questions drivers, but do not explain reasons for the detention. Radio Svaboda journalist Syarhei Astrautsou was detained on his way to Ivyanets as well. He was forbidden to drive in the town and ordered to return to Hrodna.
“Cars are being stopped almost at all traffic police posts. The information about our cars has apparently leaked to police, because officers know number plates of activists’ cars,” Andrzej Poczobut said.
The journalist, other activists of the Union of Poles and Union’s head Andzelika Borys have been in Ivyanets since Tuesday. “We won’t leave the building voluntary. The authorities will have to carry us n arms,” Poczobut said.
“This is another escalation, tightening pressure on the Union of Poles. The beginning was two months ago. The newspaper “Sovetskaya Belorussia” published libel against us. It was a signal for tax service, militia and prosecutors to check activists of the Union and question more than 120 Polish language teachers. They were asked about their ties with the Union of Poles, aid from Poland. A criminal case against Tereza Sobal was instigated. The authorities try to make her resign from the post of the Polish House head. There also were conflicts in Barysau, Hrodna, Baranavichy. Now Ivyanets is a flashpoint,” Andrzej Poczobut commented on the situation.
After a criminal case against head of the Polish House in Ivyanets (the Minsk region) Tereza Sobal had been instigated, the authorities called the Ivyaents Union of Poles branch for a meeting and announced elections of a new head of the Polish House.
Teraza Sobal, an activist of the unrecognized by the authorities Union of Poles, is accused of committing a crime allegedly taken place in 2004, when the Polish House in Ivyanets received material aid from head of the Union of Poles Tadeusz Kruczkowski in 2004. Though the limitation period had expired long ago, the criminal case against Tereza Sobal was instigated.
The Union of Poles in Belarus regards the actions by the authorities as a provocation and are going to defend the Polish House in Ivyanets. Some activists locked themselves in the house waiting for an attack.
Andrzej Poczobut says the Poles in Ivyantes have never been engaged in political activity. He explains the activities by the authoriires aimed at intimidation of activists by a campaign against the Polish minority in Belarus.
“The authorities and the pro-governmental Union of Poles want to own the Polish House in Ivyanets,” Poczobut thinks.
We remind that the Union of Poles in Belarus was split by Belarusian authorities a few years ago. The part of the organisation controlled by the authorities is officially recognized. The UPB headed by Andzelika Borys and supported by the government of Poland is repressed in Belarus.
Belarusian authorities have difficult relations with official Warsaw because of the Union of Poles. In the beginning of the Belarusian-Polish conflict in 2005 Alyaksandr Lukashenka charged Poland with “brainwashing” Belarusian Poles through this Union.
“Belarusian Poles do not want to live in Poland. We won’t allow making our citizens someone’s marionettes,” Lukashenka said then. In 2005 the conflict was accompanied by mutual banishing of diplomats.
At the same time, Polish authorities many times stated that one of the conditions of normalization of Belarusian-Polish relations is recognition by Belarusian government of the Union of Poles headed by Andzelika Borys.