Human rights defender Andrei Bandarenka released
Andrei Bandarenka, leader of the of the human rights institution “Platform Innovation”, was released today after serving five days of arrest.
He was sentenced on November 14 by the Court of Minsk’s Maskouski district to 5 days in prison for taking part in an unsanctioned rally. Judge Tatsiana Motyl found him guilty under Article 23.34 of the Administrative Code for attending the memorial action staged outside pre-trial prison No. 1 in Valadarski Street on September 14, where the relatives of the deceased prisoner Ihar Ptsichkin came to protest the official version of his death and honor his memory by laying flowers to the prison walls.
The arrest of Andrei Bandarenka caused a sharp condemnation of human rights defenders, who released their statements, including those by the Human Rights Center "Viasna" and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, which clearly regarded the arrest as a revenge for the defender’s activities for the protection of prisoners’ rights.
“The punishment Andrei Bandarenka is extremely cruel and unjustified. After all, during his detention, which was arbitrary, he acted as a human rights defender, as he had come to watch the laying of flowers at the place of Ihar Ptsichkin’s death, and no one dares call it a mass event, even though it was labeled so. As a result, only for the fact that he came up to the police bus to ask how many people had been detained, he, too, became a participant of this “unauthorized rally”,” says Viasna’s lawyer Nasta Loika, who monitored the trial on November 14.
She also notes that the police were also brutal against the remaining detainees of September 14. The police officers intimidated many of the participants, who had never before come across such arbitrariness on the part of law enforcement employees, they were simply afraid to seek assistance of human rights defenders.
“The policemen took them for charging one by one, the court, where they were tried, required that they should pay fines on the spot... They said that contacts with human rights defenders would bring no good, as they could have problems at work or school. And it’s quite sad that people believed the policemen and we were not able to help them in a situation of lawlessness. Meanwhile, perhaps, information about their convictions will anyway be sent to their employers or universities. And it is not clear how are they going to continue to protect their rights,” says the human rights defender.
Andrei Bandarenka has already filed an appeal against the verdict to the Minsk City Court.