#FreeViasna: Weekly news digest on Viasna’s imprisoned human rights defenders
On September 17, #FreeViasna campaign of solidarity with the imprisoned Viasna members was launched. Here’s the latest news about them.
Viasna honored the Clooney Foundation's Albie Awards
The freshly established Albie Awards is named in honor of Justice Albie Sachs, who is revered for his heroic commitment to ending apartheid. It is aimed to shine a spotlight on courageous people fighting for justice despite great personal risk.
“Human rights group has been the voice of resistance in Belarus for nearly 30 years as it has led a brave campaign for freedom and democracy against president Lukashenka's regime. In the run up to and following the fraudulent 2020 presidential elections, the group has paid a high price for the work; seven Viasna members have been detained on trumped up charges and both of the organization's leaders are in jail,” the organizers said.
Ales Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovich, and Uladzimir Labkovich have been in jail for 10 months
They and other Viasna members were searched by officers of the Financial Investigations Department on July 14, 2021. Since that day Ales Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovich, and Uladzimir Labkovich have been kept in custody while the Minsk offices of Viasna have been sealed. The human rights defenders were accused of ‘large-scale tax evasion’.
The investigation into their case is not over yet.
Valiantsin Stefanovich sent another drawing of Kissun the cat in prison
The human rights defender had already sent his wife drawings of the cat's adventures in prison before, but they only reached her six months later.
Viasna volunteer Andrei Chapiuk turns 26
On May 17, political prisoner Viasna member Andrei Chapiuk celebrates his birthday.
Viasna calls everyone to congratulate him and send a letter, a postcard, a parcel or make a money transfer.
Aleh Hrableuski, human rights defender and Andrei’s former cellmate recently told Viasna how Andrei lives in jail. Hrableuski was placed in pre-trial detention center No. 1 in early February 2021 and spent almost six months there, most of the time in the same cell as Chapiuk:
“He already had experience, so he took care of me and taught me various tricks. He often approached me and asked whether i need or miss something.”
Andrei was detained on October 2, 2020, and stays in pre-trial detention center No. 1 in Minsk since then.
Marfa Rabkova has been detained for more than 600 days
Coordinator of Viasna’s volunteer network Marfa Rabkova was detained on September 17, 2020. The human rights defender is charged under a number of articles of the Criminal Code for the events of 2016–2020 and faces up to 20 years in prison.
The trial of Marfa and 9 other political prisoners began on April 25. The hearing is held in closed session so there are no further details.
Current Time project published a long-read article about Marfa Rabkova in which the media recounts what she had gone through during her several years of human rights activism and 18 months of criminal prosecution.
No updates on four Viasna members
There was no news from lawyer Uladzimir Labkovich and the head of Viasna Ales Bialiatski last week.
It is known that a lawyer is still not allowed to visit Leanid Sudalenka, the head of the Homieĺ branch of Viasna, and letters from a Rečyca volunteer Tatsiana Lasitsa reach only her father after her transfer to the colony.