#WeStandBYyou: New 'godparents' for Belarusian political prisoners
As part of Libereco’s #WeStandBYyou solidarity campaign, Heléne Björklund (Riksdag, S/SAP, Sweden), Evelyne Gebhardt (European Parliament, SPD, Germany), Stephanie Krisper (National Council, NEOS, Austria), Rachel Hopkins (House of Commons, Labour Party, UK), Jennifer Carroll MacNeill (Dáil Éireann, Fine Gael, Ireland) and Daniela Kolbe (Deutscher Bundestag, SPD, Germany) take over godparenthoods for political prisoners in Belarus.
Sofia Sapega was arrested on May 23, 2021 under Art. 293 of the Belarusian Criminal Code (organizing mass riots), as well as Art. 342 (organizing and preparing actions grossly violating public order) and Art. 130 (inciting hatred). She is being held in the KGB prison in Minsk. In an unprecedented act of state terrorism, the Belarusian regime had a plane of the Irish airline Ryanair on its way from Greece to Lithuania hijacked in Belarusian airspace on 23 May. When the plane was forced to land in Minsk, Raman Pratasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega were arrested.
Heléne Björklund, a member of the Swedish Riksdag, has taken over the godparenthood of Sofia Sapega, and declares: “Here in Sweden, just a short journey from Belarus, I am appalled by the negative developments in Belarus. I am impressed that courageous people continue to protest after the rigged election in August. I appeal to the regime to stop persecuting and imprisoning ordinary people who simply want to live in a democratic and open country. It takes a long time to win democracy, but even longer to build it. Every democratic community is needed. Sofia Sapega is a young student who was on board a plane that was forced to land. I demand that she be released. Young people should educate themselves, dance, love and live life freely. They shall not be imprisoned without committing a crime.”
Safiya Malashevich was arrested on September 6, 2020 and later released on bail. She was arrested again on November 30 and sentenced to two years of penal colony under Article 339 of the Belarusian Criminal Code (hooliganism) on January 22, 2021. She is serving her sentence in penal colony No. 4 in Gomel.
Evelyne Gebhardt, Member of the European Parliament, has taken over the godparenthood of Safiya Malashevich and declares: “After the presidential elections in Belarus in August 2020, which were neither free nor fair, the population showed a lot of courage and took their displeasure to the streets. For this, they deserve my deepest respect. Instead of responding to the demands of the citizens, ruler Lukashenko has chosen a path of violence and repression. Brutal crackdowns on protests and arbitrary arrests have been his cruel response to the wishes of the people. Among the political prisoners is Safiya Malashevich, who was arrested at just 18 years old and has now been in prison since November 2020. To express my solidarity with the opposition movement, I would like to be Safiya godparent. She is young woman who courageously stands up for a peaceful and democratic society in Belarus and has to pay for this with her own freedom. I call on Alexander Lukashenko: Release Safiya and the hundreds of other political prisoners immediately! The people of Belarus are fighting for democracy and freedom. The time of oppression must end!”
Vital Prokharau is a 17-year-old resident of Žlobin. He was sentenced to two years in a juvenile detention center on February 8, 2021 for violating Article 342 of the Belarusian Criminal Code (organizing and preparing actions that grossly endanger public order) and Article 364 (violence or threat of violence against a police officer).
Stephanie Krisper, member of the Austrian National Council, has taken over the godparenthood of Vital Prokharau. On the occasion of the godparenthood, Mrs. Krisper states: “Vital Prokharau was only 17 years old when he was sentenced to two years of juvenile detention. After protests against the illegitimate election of Alexander Lukashenko last August, he was arrested and severely physically abused. No young person should have to go to prison for opposing a dictatorial system that steals their future. No young person in the world should have to endure such treatment! A wrongfully imprisoned person must feel that he or she is not alone. And that people are fighting against the injustice he or she has suffered and are standing by his or her side. Vital Prokharau, I want to do this for you.”
Anton Lakishyk is a 21-year-old technician from Minsk. He was sentenced to three years in prison on November 18 for assaulting a riot police officer on July 14th (Article 364 of the Belarusian Criminal Code: violence or threat of violence against an employee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs). He is serving his sentence in penal colony No. 2 in Babruysk.
Rachel Hopkins, member of the House of Commons, has sponsored Anton Lakishyk, stating, “The authoritarian repression of demonstrators in Belarus is truly disgraceful, and I want to send my solidarity to all those committed to standing up for their human rights and advocating for a better, more democratic country. I support Anton Lakishyk who has been given a three-year conviction for allegedly attacking a riot policeman who has showed no injuries and chose not to seek medical help. The Belarus authorities must free Anton and others who have been convicted for fighting for freedom and democracy in Belarus by taking part in peaceful demonstrations.”
Daniil Bohnat was sentenced to six years in a penal colony on April 30, 2021. He is accused of taking part in riots on the night of August 9, 2020 in Pinsk ( Art. 293 of the Belarusian Criminal Code).
Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, member of Dáil Eireann, has taken over the godparenthood of Daniil Bohnat and declared: “Danill Bohnat was just 18 years old when he was arrested whilst peacefully protesting the rigged presidential election in Belarus. After a year in custody, Danill was sentenced to 6 years in jail this time last month. Freedom of peaceful assembly is guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. I urge Lukashenka to free all Belarusian political prisoners. They are fully entitled to speak out against authoritarianism.”
Aliaksandr Babrou is an employee of the BMZ steel plant in Žlobin. On August 17, Yauhen Hovar and other BMZ employees blocked the road for the plant’s escort vehicles in protest against election fraud and violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators. On February 1, the Žlobin District Court found him guilty of “disturbing public order” (Part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced him to two and a half years in prison which is penal colony No. 13 in Hlubokaje.
Daniela Kolbe, member of German Bundestag, has taken over the godparenthood of Aliaksandr Babrou. On the occasion of her godparenthood, Ms. Kolbe states: “The case of Protasevich shows how unscrupulous the regime in Belarus acts. It is even more important to show solidarity for the many political prisoners in the country and to fight for their release! That’s why today I wrote a letter to Aliaksandr Babrou, who was imprisoned after a strike. #WeStandBYyou”