Belarus holds another political prisoner – journalist Andrei Pachobut
Statement by the Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna” strongly condemns the arrest of and libel charges brought against journalist Andrei Pachobut, and views the case as politically motivated harassment aimed at sanctioning his professional activities and freedom of expression. We consider Andrei Pachobut another political prisoner and demand his immediate and unconditional release.
Journalist Andrei Pachobut was detained and then arrested on June 21, 2012 in Hrodna. The arrest is linked to a criminal case under Par. 2 Art. 367 of the Criminal Code (“libel of the President of the Republic of Belarus”) initiated by the Hrodna office of the Investigative Committee as a result of an inspection carried out by the KGB regional office. Following the inspection, the KGB office concluded that a number of online publications by Andrei Pachobut contain defamatory statements concerning President Aliaksandr Lukashenka.
Under Par. 2 Art. 367 of the CC, Andrei Pachobut may be imprisoned for up to five years.
Andrei Pachobut is currently serving a 3-year suspended sentence as a result of a verdict handed down by Hrodna Leninski District Court on July 5, 2011 on the same charges (Par. 1 art. 367 of the Criminal Code).
The Human Rights Center “Viasna” believes that Andrei Pachobut’s prosecution is a direct threat for the entire journalists’ community ahead of the September parliamentary elections. We regret to state that the repressive measure is nothing but a signal for other civil and political actors who are expected to criticize the current regime during the upcoming election campaign.
The Human Rights Center “Viasna” insists on the abolition of the defamatory charges in the Criminal Code, which provide for criminal responsibility for libel and insult of the President of the Republic of Belarus and other officials, and discrediting the Republic of Belarus. We are deeply convinced that the charges contribute to the destruction of freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution, and are only used to exercise politically motivated harassment of the regime’s opponents.
The Human Rights Center “Viasna” demands to:
- drop the criminal charges against Andrei Pachobut and immediately release him;
- promptly and unconditionally release all the political prisoners who are either in custody or in prison;
- bring the legislation of the Republic of Belarus in line with international standards of freedom of expression.