Viasna digest: 36 political prisoners released in July, 20 of them fully served their sentences
The number of political prisoners in Belarus has been growing steadily for two years now. At the moment 1255 people are recognized as political prisoners. At the same time, some criminal convicts have already served their terms and are released from custody, and some are released in the courtroom after being sentenced to freedom restriction. According to human rights defenders, at least 36 people were released on July, and 20 of them fully served their sentences on politically motivated charges. Viasna recalls their cases.
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.
Twenty political prisoners were released after having served their full sentences
Yauhen Dzmitryeu served 24 months
Yauhen Dzmitryeu, 28, worked as a firefighter-rescuer in the Ministry of Emergency Situations. He was detained on October 4, 2020, after the rally. On February 26, 2021, the Centraĺny District Court of Minsk sentenced Yauhen to 24 months of imprisonment in a penal colony on charges of ‘violating the public order’ under Part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code. On July 1, 2022, Yauhen was released, having fully served his term.
Yury Kavaliou served 12 months
On the same day, July 1, political prisoner Yury Kavaliou was also released from the colony. However, he still has to undergo coercive treatment ordered in another criminal case. On June 28, 2022, three days before the political prisoner's release from the penal colony, the Vaŭkavysk District Court convicted him under Article 411 of the Criminal Code of ‘malicious disobedience to the demands of the administration of the penitentiary’.
Artsiom Tabakar served 12 months
On July 4, 28-year-old political prisoner Artsiom Tabakar was released. Artsiom was detained for participating in protests on September 6, 2020. He was found guilty of ‘actively participating in group actions grossly violating the public order’ and sentenced to 12 months of imprisonment in general-security penal colony under Article 342 of the Criminal Code.
Natallia Padleuska served 12 month
Natallia Padleuska, 56, was arrested in November 2021, on charges of ‘insulting the president and a government official’ under Articles 368 and 369 of the Criminal Code. She was kept in pre-trial detention for more than six months. The judge sentenced her to 12 months of imprisonment in a general-security penal colony and a fine of 3,200 Belarusian rubles (equivalent to 1280 US dollars).On July 4, Natallia was released at the end of her term even before her appeal was considered.
Ivan Dubrouski served 12 month
Ivan Dubrouski, 32, was detained on October 1, 2021, as part of a criminal case of ‘group actions grossly violating the public order’ brought under Article 342 of the Criminal Code. On January 27, 2022, the Kastryčnicki District Court of Hrodna sentenced him to 12 months of imprisonment in a general-security penal colony. The political prisoner fully served his sentence and was released from prison No. 1 in July 2022.
Mikalai Vitsikau served 8 month
The political prisoner Mikalai Vitsikau was released from pre-trial detention center. On June 7, 2022, the Navabielica District of Homieĺ found him guilty of ‘discrediting Belarus’ and sentenced him to eight months of imprisonment in a general-security colony. The reason for his detention was a letter the man had sent to the local newspaper to discuss amendments to the Constitution.
Uladzislau Makavetski served 24 months
On July 7, a political prisoner artist from Viciebsk Uladzislau Makavetski. was released from a penal colony. On December 16, 2021, the Kastryčnicki District Court of Viciebsk sentenced him to 24 months in a general-security penal colony for attacking police officers under Article 364 of the Criminal Code.
Dzianis Davydulin served 18 months
On July 8, a resident of Žlobin Dzianis Davydulin, was released as he served his entire term. Dzianis was sentenced to 18 months of imprisonment in a general-security penal colony for ‘active participation in group actions that grossly violate the public order’ and ‘violence against the police’ under Articles 342 and 364 of the Criminal Code accordingly.
Yahor Khramenia served 24 months
Also, on July 8, the political prisoner Yahor Khramenia fully served his sentence and was released. The man was accused of ‘violence against a police officer’ in the evening of August 9, 2022, in order to obstruct officer's lawful activities. Yahor allegedly hit a police officer to the head and sprayed pepper gas, which led to burns of the retina. On November 13, 2020, the Babrujsk District Court found him guilty and sentenced him to 24 months of imprisonment in a general-security penal colony. On July 8, Yahor Khramenia fully served his sentence and was released.
Aksana Kaspiarovich served 14 months
Political prisoner Aksana Kaspiarovich, a music teacher, was released from Hrodna prison No. 1 on July 8. She was convicted on June 29, 2022, in the Hrodna Regional Court. On June 29, 2022, a Hrodna Regional Court sentenced her to 14 months of imprisonment in a general-security penal colony. But considering the time she had already spent behind bars, she had just over two weeks left in jail. Kaspiarovich was arrested on September 30, 2021, in a criminal case opened for comments on the Internet after death of KGB officer Dzmitryi Fedasiuk and IT specialist Andrei Zeltser. The KGB put the political prisoner on the list of terrorists.
Yuzef Niamera served 18 months
Yuzef Niamera from Hrodna was charged with two counts: ‘participation in group actions that grossly violate the public order’ under Article 342 of the Criminal Code and ‘violence or threat of violence against an employee of internal affairs’ under Article 364 of the Criminal Code.
He was initially sentenced to two and a half years under home confinement. However, the sentence was later upgraded to 18 months of imprisonment. On July 15, Niamera was released from a penal colony.
Yauhen Markavets served 18 months
Homieĺ activist Yauhen Markavets was kept behind bars for almost 14 months. He was sentenced to 18 months of imprisonment for six comments in Telegram app chats. Yauhen was charged with ‘organizing actions that grossly violate the public order’ and ‘publicly insulting a government official’ under Part 1 of Article 342 and Article 369 of the Criminal Code accordingly.
Four convicts in the Dancing protest case served their sentences and were released
Aliaksandr Zhuk, 26, fully served 18 months of freedom restriction in an open-type correctional facility and was released on July 23. He was detained on March 24, 2021, as part of the so-called Dancing protest case brought after a demonstration on September 13, 2020, in Brest. That day, several hundred people gathered in city central square to sing songs and dance. The protest was dispesred by a water cannon. On August 30, 2021, the court found him guilty of ‘active participation in group actions that grossly violate the public order’ under Part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code. https://prisoners.spring96.org/en/person/aljaksandr-zhuk
Aliaksei Artsetski from Brest was also convicted in Dancing protest case. On March 15, 2021, the court of the Lieninsky district of Brest sentencedthe political prisoner to 18 months of imprisonment in a general-security penal colony. Aliaksei was kept behind bars for more than 16 months. He was released on July 23, 2022.
Siarhei Kananovich, 27, a resident of Pružany, was detained on March 24, 2021. On August 30, 2021, in the Lieninsky district court of Brest, Siarhei was found guilty under Article 342 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 18 months of freedom restriction in an open-type correctional facility. On July 25, 2022, Kananovich finished serving his term and was released.
On July 25, a political prisoner, former morning TV show host on the local TV Kanstantsin Svidunovich was also released. On August 30, 2021, the Lieninski District Court of Brest sentenced Svidunovich to 18 months of restricted freedom in an open-type correctional facility.
Mikalai Shemetau served 24 months
Mikalai Shemetau, a 32-years-old father of four, was detained on December 21, 2020, at his daughter’s school. He was accused of ‘organizing group actions that grossly violated the public order’, because on September 27, being the administrator of his neighborhood chat, he posted information and coordinated the movements of the protesting column, suggested possible routes, and informed about possible locations of the police. On July 29, 2022, Mikalai finished serving his term in the correctional colony and was released.
Siarhei Krasouski and Volha Syravatka served 12-month
Siarhei Krasouski was detained on November 23, 2020, in the case of blocking railways and hanging police effigies. He was sentenced to 24 months of imprisonment in a general-security penal colony.
Volha Syravatka, a resident of Brest, was detained in the same case. She was accused of hanging an effigy of a riot police officer and breaking the window in the police station. Like Siarhei, she got 24 months in jail.
Maksim Yalkanov served 18 months
Maksim Yalkanov from Rečyca was detained at work on March 9, 2021. He was accused of ‘organizing group actions which grossly violate the public order and were combined with disobedience to authorities’ under Part 1, Article 342 of the Criminal Code. According to the investigation, Maksim suggested over the phone to his friends and relatives that they walk to the center of Rečyca and possibly go to Homieĺ to see how the protests were going on there.
On June 18, 2021, Maksim was sentenced to one and a half years in prison. The political prisoner was released on July 29, 2022.
Fourteen political prisoners got non-custodial terms and were released in the courtroom
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). Three political prisoners got three years of freedom restriction in open-type correctional facilities and were released awaiting the commencement of their sentences:
Another 11 political prisoners were sentenced to restricted freedom under home confinement and were also released in the courtroom:
- Volha Rytus,
- Palina Martynchyk,
- Aleh Audzeyenka,
- Ilya Lyulkovich,
- Anastasiya Malashuk,
- Aliaksei Kedysh,
- Anastasiya Sankouskaya,
- Aliaksandr Kazakevich,
- Santa Franchuk,
- Uladzimir Dalshou,
- and Ina Shyrokaya.
All of them but one got three-years terms. Aliaksandr Kazakevich received 18 months of restricted freedom.
Journalist Alena Talkachova released after 14 months in detention
On July 18, journalist Alena Talkachova, a political prisoner in the Tut.by media case, was released from pre-trial detention center after her measure of restraint was changed. She was detained on May 18, 2021, with other persons involved in the case, and has spent 14 months in custody.
Valery Vishchenia’s custody level changed due to his health condition
On July 5, Valery Vishchenia convicted of ‘taking part in actions that grossly violated the public order’ had his sentence changed from open-type correctional facility to home confinement. He was recently assigned the second disability group, which prohibits physical activity, making it impossible for him to serve his sentence in an open-type facility, where he worked on the production of monuments. Valery will serve the remaining 21 months of his sentence under house confinement.