#FreeViasna: Weekly news digest on Viasna’s imprisoned human rights defenders

2022 2022-05-23T22:18:00+0300 2022-05-24T16:32:59+0300 en https://spring96.org/files/images/sources/poster2_freeviasna.jpg The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

On September 17, #FreeViasna campaign of solidarity with the imprisoned Viasna members was launched. Here’s the latest news about them.

On May 21, declared by Viasna human rights defenders as the Day of Political Prisoners in Belarus, actions in memory of Vitold Ashurak who died in prison and in solidarity with more than 1200 political prisoners took place in different cities and countries of the world.

Solidarity actions around the world: May 21 celebrated the Day of Political Prisoners in Belarus

On May 21, declared by Viasna human rights defenders as the Day of Political Prisoners in Belarus, actions in memory of Vitold Ashurak who died in prison and in solidarity with more than 1200 political prisoners took place in different cities and countries of the world.

European Union Ambassador to Belarus Dirk Schuebel posted an open letter on his Facebook page, which also mentioned imprisoned Viasna members:

“Today, on the Day of the Political Prisoner in Belarus as announced by the human rights activists, I would like to address, first of all, our dear friends from Viasna. Ales, Valiantsin, Marfa, Uladzimir, Leanid, Tatsiana, Andrei, you have devoted yourselves for many years to defending the fundamental values of mankind, insisting on the respect for the freedoms and rights of your fellow citizens, struggling to live in a Belarus in which the rule of law reigns and where there are opportunities to speak openly, without fear of being arrested. You were helping political prisoners and their families at your own risk, and for many months now, you have been political prisoners yourselves, as have many hundreds of your compatriots. Today and every day, similar to many people in Belarus and around the world, I think of you and wish you wholeheartedly that all Belarusian political prisoners will soon be free and safe. As the EU Ambassador to Belarus, my team at the EU Delegation in Minsk and I will continue doing everything in our power that this wish will come true.”

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Ales Bialiatski and Dirk Schuebel. Photo from social networks

Valiantsin Stefanovich: “I send greetings through seagulls"

In one of his letters, Viasna human rights defender Valiantsin Stefanovich, a political prisoner, shared his way of sending greetings to the freedom:

“My mood is mostly good. Of course–I will not hide it–sometimes it is hard. The most difficult thing is the isolation itself. All of a sudden there is no way for you to go where you want, to walk down the street, to see your relatives and friends. And this is the hardest thing.

I've already forgotten what the grass looks like, what the trees look like. I can only see the sky and my seagull friends. Through them, I send my greetings to my dear people. Birds, they are free, they don't know about state institutions, prisons, and military stations.”

Marfa Rabkova ‘visited’ an art gallery in London

A man took Marfa Rabkova's photo to the Tate Modern to support her on Political Prisoner's Day. The gallery hosted an exhibition of surrealists who once fought for freedom for art and humanity.

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Amnesty International Polska collected over 5,000 signatures on a petition for the release of Marfa Rabkova. They were taken to the Belarusian embassy.

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Andrei Chapiuk celebrated his 26th birthday behind bars

On May 17, a political prisoner, Viasna volunteer Andrei Chapiuk, celebrated his 26th birthday in pre-trial detention center.

Senior Adviser to the Human Rights House Foundation Ane Tusvik Bonde recorded a video message and congratulations for Andrei. 

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Read 55 books and learnt how to do push-ups using one arm. Things that Andrei Chapiuk has achieved over a year in jail

For more than a year a volunteer of “Viasna” Andrei Chapiuk is detained in pre-trial jail. During this time he has read 55 books, has filled three writing books with the notes on a programming book and has learnt how to do push-ups with one arm. His girlfriend Alena says: passion for knowledge and diligence have always been the boy’s strongest points. But the first thing that she points out, when asked to describe Andrei, is his kindness and readiness to help at any time.

The trial of Marfa Rabkova and Andrei Chapiuk continues

Coordinator of Viasna’s volunteer network Marfa Rabkova, volunteer Andrei Chapiuk, and eight political prisoners and activists of the anarchist movement have been on trial in the Minsk City Court for almost a month. The case is heard by Judge Siarhei Khrypach, the state prosecution is supported by Raman Biziuk.

Altogether, political prisoners are charged under ten articles of the Criminal Code. Three of them, including Marfa Rabkova, are characterized by the Investigative Committee as “organizers and leaders of a number of organized criminal groups that had independent units in the regions of Belarus with their own leaders”. The trial was closed on the first day. The case contains 160 volumes. It is known that witnesses in the case are being interrogated now.

No updates on four Viasna members

There was no news from lawyer Uladzimir Labkovich, Viasna head Ales Bialiatski, and Homieĺ branch of Viasna head Leanid Sudalenka last week.

After Rečyca volunteer Tatsiana Lasitsa has been transferred to the colony, letters from her reach only her father.

 

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