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Viasna digest: 28 political prisoners released in June, half of them fully served their sentences

2022 2022-07-04T18:16:09+0300 2022-07-04T18:16:09+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

The number of political prisoners in Belarus has been growing steadily for two years now. At the moment 1,234 people are recognized as political prisoners. Arrests take place every day and judges in Belarus hand down politically motivated sentences. Some criminal convicts have already served their terms and were released from custody, and some are released in the courtroom after the pronouncement of the verdict. According to human rights defenders, at least 28 people were released in June. Viasna tells what happened to political prisoners in June.

Fourteen political prisoners were released after serving their full sentences

Volha Takarchuk after her release. Source: Belsat
Volha Takarchuk after her release. Source: Belsat

Homieĺ resident released after three months of arrest

Homieĺ resident Uladzimir Kashko was released from Homieĺ pre-trial detention center No. 3 on May 31. The former policeman was sentenced in November 2021 to three months of arrest under Article 203-1 of the Criminal Code (illegal actions with respect to information about private life and personal data). He was accused of leaking the personal data of 27 Interior Ministry employees to a Telegram channel. Judge Andrei Lahunovich also ruled to charge Kashko with compensation for moral damage to the victims in the amount of BYN 13,600 (about USD 4,000).

Political prisoner Mikita Prystalenka served his entire term in an open penal facility

A 25-year-old resident of Viciebsk Mikita Prystalenka was sentenced to one year of restricted freedom for tearing down the state flag. He was found guilty under Article 370 of the Criminal Code (desecration of state symbols). Since September 10, 2021, Mikita was serving his term in the Mazyr open correctional facility No. 21, and on June 9, 2022, he was released.

Political prisoner Viachaslau Ulasevich served his full term for ‘desecrating the state flag’

On June 9, political prisoner Viachaslau Ulasevich from Baranavičy was released after one year of restricted freedom in an open-type correctional facility. Viachaslau was convicted under Article 370 of the Criminal Code (desecration of the national flag). He was found guilty of removing the flag from a building while being intoxicated on April 3, 2021. He then carried it for some time and threw it to the ground, causing the staff to break into three pieces and damaging the cloth. The damage amounted to BYN 2.44. He was serving his sentence in open-type correctional facility No. 49 in Škloŭ since June 3, 2021.

Political prisoners Volha Takarchuk and Anastasiya Mirontsava served their terms and were released from the Homieĺ women's colony

Ольга Токарчук после выхода на волю. Источник: Белсат
Volha Takarchuk after her release. Source: Belsat

On June 16, blogger and designer Volha Takarchuk was released. She had been kept behind bars for over a year.

On December 20, the Zavodski District Court of Minsk sentenced Volha to 18 months in a penal colony. She was charged under three articles of the Criminal Code: organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate the public order, or active participation in them (Part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code), defamation (Article 188 of the Criminal Code), and Insulting a judge (Article 391 of the Criminal Code).

Анастасия Миронцева (слева) после выхода на волю
Anastasiya Mirontsava (left) after her release

On the same day, Anastasiya Mirontsava was released from the women's colony. She and her sister Viktoryia were detained back in October 2020 as part of a criminal case under Article 342 part 1 of the Criminal Code. The case is related to the events of August 10 in Minsk. Later they were also accused of violence against officers of the Interior Ministry, and Viktoryia was accused of resisting an officer of the Interior Ministry. On April 1, 2021, Anastasiya was sentenced to 2 years in prison, and Viktoryia to 2.5 years.

Sisters sentenced to prison terms in political trial

Judge Aliaksandr Volk of the Saviecki District Court of Minsk has sentenced Anastasiya Mirontsava and Viktoryia Mirontsava, both political prisoners, to two and two and a half years in prison, respectively, finding the sisters guilty of “breaching public order” (Part 1 of Art. 342 of the Criminal Code) and “using violence against police officers” (Part 1 of Art. 363).

Two friends served their terms for setting fire to a national flag

Владислав Томашевич и Алексей Чешун после освобождения
Uladzislau Tamashevich and Aliaksei Chashun after their release

Uladzislau Tamashevich and Aliaksei Chashun, residents of Maladziečna district, were detained on September 7, 2021, in a criminal case for desecration of a state flag (Article 370 of the Criminal Code). They were accused of setting fire to the state flag located near one of the shops. On November 29, 2021, the court sentenced Uladzislau to 12 months and 5 days of imprisonment, and Aliaksei to 12 months.

A political prisoner from Minsk was released after serving his sentence for participation in protests

Minsk resident Yauhen Kurhanau was detained as part of the case of mass riots on October 30, 2020. At first, he was charged with participation in mass riots in August (Part 2 of article 293 of the Criminal Code), but then the case was re-qualified to article 342 of the Criminal Code (active participation in group actions that grossly violate public order). On March 23, 2021, the Zavodski District Court of Minsk sentenced Kurhanau to two years in a general-security penal colony, despite the defendant's disability. On June 18, Yauhen was released from Mahilioŭ colony No. 15.

Three Minsk residents convicted for tearing down the national flag were released from the colonies

26-year-old Yana Mileuskaya was detained on 7 September 2021 on a criminal case for desecration of the state flag (Article 370 of the Criminal Code). She, as well as Maksim Mychko and Aliaksandr Bendz, were accused of tearing down the state flag in one of the streets of Homieĺ. They were identified with the help of CCTV cameras. The political prisoners were sentenced to 12 months in jail. All of them are residents of Minsk and had come to Homieĺ to compete in beach volleyball.

Political prisoners Uladzimir Kolas and Maksim Shyrynski, convicted of the restriction of freedom, served their sentences

Uladzimir Kolas was sentenced to 18 months of freedom restriction in an open penitentiary for insulting Aliaksandr Lukashenka (Article 368 of the Criminal Code). The convict was taken into custody on April 3, 2021, to serve a sentence in penitentiary No. 46 in Kruhlaje. On April 21, 2022, the court of the Kruhlaje district ruled to increase the political prisoner's custody level for "violation of the internal regulations in the institution". As the result, Uladzimir Kolas was transferred to Mahilioŭ prison No. 4.

Maksim Shyrynski is a resident of Navahrudak, convicted by the Kareličy District Court to 12 months of restricted freedom in an open-type correctional institution for contempt of a government official (Article 369 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus). Since June 2021, he has been serving his sentence in Mazyr open-type correctional facility No. 21.

On 24 June both political prisoners finished serving their sentences and were released.

A resident of Salihorsk was released from the penal colony

Yury Samusevich was sentenced to 18 months in a general-security penal colony and a fine of BYN 5,800 (USD 1,700) under Part 1 of Article 14 Part 2 of Article 179 of the Criminal Code (preparing to unlawfully collect private information constituting personal and family secrets of another person without their consent). After the 2021 amendments to the Criminal Code, the case was reconsidered and the man was sentenced to 1 year and 3 months of imprisonment under Article 203-1 of the Criminal Code. Yury served his term in full and was released at the beginning of June 2022.

Fourteen political prisoners were released in the courtroom after criminal convictions

Первое фото Оксаны Колб на свободе
Aksana Kolb's first photo after her release from jail

At least 14 political prisoners were released from pre-trial detention facilities after the trials (the number may be an underestimate, as human rights defenders do not yet have all the results of the trials of political prisoners). Nine political prisoners were released in the courtroom after being sentenced to freedom restriction in open-type correctional facilities and will remain free awaiting the commencement of their sentences:

Journalist Aksana Kolb sentenced to 2.5 years of freedom restriction

Aksana Kolb, a journalist, and editor-in-chief of the Novy Chas newspaper was sentenced in the Centraĺny District Court of Minsk. Judge Dzmitryi Karsiuk found her guilty of participation in actions that grossly violate public order under Part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code and sentenced her to 2.5 years of restricted freedom in an open-type correctional facility for her participation in one of the rallies in August in 2020. After almost two months of pre-trial detention, Aksana was released in the courtroom awaiting the commencement of the sentence.

Another five political prisoners were sentenced to restricted freedom under home confinement and were also released in the courtroom:

Political prisoner student escapes the penitentiary facility and is now safe 

Иван Никанов
Ivan Nikanau

It became known that the political prisoner Ivan Nikanau managed to escape from an open-type penitentiary and is now in Lithuania. The BSUIR student was detained in October 2021 and later sentenced to three years of restricted freedom. Ivan served his term in open correctional facility No. 7.


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