Civil Rights Defenders leader detained at Čyžouka Arena
Robert Hårdh, Executive Director of Sweden’s Civil Rights Defenders human rights group, arrived yesterday in Minsk to meet with the head of the Swedish Hockey Federation Christer Englund at Čyžouka Arena, where Sweden played Italy as part of the World Championship.
Robert Hårdh had brought a symbolic hockey jersey containing the text “Bialiatski 33” written on the back of it. The jersey symbolizes the 33 months of imprisonment of Belarus’ leading human rights defender, Ales Bialiatski. Ahead of the trip to Minsk, Mr. Hårdh wrote on Facebook that he intended to present the jersey to Englund, telling him about the background to the World Championship.
Apparently, it was this “souvenir” with the name of the political prisoner that was targeted by the security guards who detained Robert Hårdh as he was entering Čyžouka Arena at 8 p.m. The Arena employees brought the human rights defender to a special room for a search.
The guards would not let Hårdh until Christer Englund appeared. After a 10 minute talk, the human rights activist was released, taking the hockey jersey with him. However, he was once again detained when passing the control zone inside the Arena. Robert Hårdh was subjected to another examination of his things, which was carried out in the presence of Englund. This time, no “forbidden” items were found by the security guards.
As a result, the Civil Rights Defenders leader met with the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation President. After that, Robert Hårdh went to watch the hockey game accompanied by both Swedish and Belarusian human rights defenders.