German MPs adopt political prisoners Andrei Voinich, Yauhen Afnahel and Iryna Kastsiuchenka
As part of Libereco’s solidarity campaign #WeStandBYyou, Robin Mesarosch (German Bundestag, Social Democratic Party), Verena Hubertz (German Bundestag, Social Democratic Party) and Deborah Düring (German Bundestag, Alliance 90/The Greens) have taken on a godparenthood for political prisoners in Belarus.
Andrei Voinich is a long-standing activist of the opposition group “European Belarus”. On 25 September 2020, masked security guards stormed a flat rented by “European Belarus” and confiscated all IT equipment, flags and personal belongings. Andrei Voinich was arrested. On 25 May 2021 he was sentenced to seven years imprisonment for “participation in riots” (Criminal Code, Art. 293).
Robin Mesarosch is a member of the German Bundestag for the SPD. He has taken over the godparenthood of Voinich from retired MP Martin Schulz and declares: “I have organised many demonstrations in my home country because I wanted to change something politically. Everyone should have this opportunity. This is even more important in countries like Belarus, where life is hard for many and the state creates and exacerbates problems instead of solving them. Andrei Voinich deserves respect for his efforts. I am campaigning for his release. Currently, the Belarusian authorities are denying Mr Voinich urgent medical treatment. In the meantime, his life is in danger due to his illnesses! I call on the local authorities to provide Mr Voinich with immediate and appropriate care and to protect his life.”
Yauhen Afnahel, is an activist with the opposition group “European Belarus”. On 25 September 2020, he was arrested when security forces stormed a flat of “European Belarus”. On 25 May 2021, he was sentenced to seven years imprisonment for “participation in protests” and “preparation of persons for participation in mass riots” (Criminal Code, Art. 293).
Verena Hubertz, member of the German Bundestag (Social Democratic Party), has taken over the godparenthood of Afnahel from retired MP Andreas Steier. She notes: “The political crisis has dominated Belarus for more than a year now – ever since Lukashenko was again declared president despite election manipulations. Since then, thousands of people have been in prison and hundreds are still in custody. And this is because these people are peacefully campaigning for democracy, the rule of law and free elections. This includes Yauhen Afnahel, an opposition activist who was sentenced to seven years in prison. I hereby demand that Yauhen Afnahel be released immediately and unharmed. Freedom of the press and freedom of expression are not crimes – the German and European governments must urgently consider tightening sanctions. The regime of injustice in Minsk must be met with the strength of the law!”
Iryna Kastsiuchenka is a former lawyer at the independent news portal TUT.BY, against which a criminal case for serious tax evasion was opened on 18 May 2021. As part of this, the office and homes of key employees were searched and the news portal was blocked. Kastsiuchenka was arrested as a suspect.
Deborah Düring is a member of the Bundestag and of the Committee for Economic Cooperation and Development. When taking on the godparenthood of Kastsiuchenka, she demands: “My full solidarity goes to all people in Belarus who are exposed to state violence and criminalised because of their commitment to democracy and the rule of law, to fair and free elections. Freedom of the press and freedom of expression are not crimes, but universal human rights that must be upheld everywhere. I stand firmly on the side of democratic civil society and therefore become the godparent of Iryna Kastsiuchenka. She has worked as a lawyer for the independent news portal TUT.BY and has been in detention since 18 May 2021. She and all other political prisoners must be released immediately and unconditionally.”