#WeStandBYyou: German and Swiss MPs become godparents of political prisoners in Belarus
As part of Libereco’s solidarity campaign #WeStandBYyou, Mattea Meyer (Swiss National Council, Social Democratic Party), Takis Mehmet Ali (German Bundestag, Social Democratic Party) and Lisa Badum (German Bundestag, Alliance 90/The Greens) have taken on a godparenthood for political prisoners in Belarus.
Pensioner Halina Mikhalchuk was detained on 7 February 2022, and sentenced to two and a half years of imprisonment for “insulting a government official” (Criminal Code, Art. 369), “insulting the President of the Republic of Belarus” (Art. 368) and “slander against the President (Art. 367). In 2021, she had already been sentenced to two years of home confinement.
Following the release of political prisoner Anastasiya Mirontsava, Mattea Meyer is now taking on the godparenthood for Halina Mikhalchuk. She says:
“Halina Mikhalchuk has been in detention for months. In a few weeks, on 29 August, she will turn 70. But she has no reason to celebrate: she has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison for taking part in peaceful demonstrations against the Lukashenko regime. In order to draw attention to these unacceptable human rights violations, I, as Co-chair of the Social Democratic Party of Switzerland, am taking on the godparenthood for Halina. Together with Libereco’s solidarity campaign #WeStandBYyou, we demand her immediate release as well as that of all political prisoners in Belarus!”
Andrei Khrenkou was detained during a weekly Sunday protest on 30 August 2020 and charged under Art. 364 of the Belarusian Criminal Code (“violence or threat of violence against a police officer”) for his involvement in a clash with police officers who tried to arrest another protester. Consequently, he was sentenced to five years of imprisonment, out of which he must spend three years in a maximum-security prison.
Takis Mehmet Ali, Member of Parliament for the SPD in the German Bundestag, has taken on the godparenthood for Andrei Khrenkou and comments as follows:
“Democracy thrives on freedom of expression. Where freedom of demonstration is restricted and peaceful assembly for the free expression of opinion is sanctioned, democracy is suspended. Defending this principle against autocrats and remaining committed to democracy comes at a very high price under a repressive regime like the one in Belarus. As a victim of repression and arrest, Andrei Khrenkou and many others in Belarus have to pay this high price. Andrei Khrenkou, I stand by you, #WeStandBYyou.”
Anarchist Aliaksandr Bialou was detained on 29 July 2021 and sentenced to five years of imprisonment for the “organization of or participation in actions that grossly violate public order” (Art. 342 of the Criminal Code) and the “creation of or participation in an extremist formation” (Art. 361).
Lisa Badum is a member of the German Bundestag. She was already the godmother of political prisoner Liavon Khalataran, who has since been released from prison. Lisa Badum comments on her new godparenthood for Aliaksandr Bialou as follows:
“Repression, arbitrariness, brutal violence and imprisonment are Lukashenko’s reaction to people who are working for a just Belarus. Twenty-six-year-old Aliaksandr Bialou also had to pay for his courage. An activist with the anarchist movement Food Not Bombs*, which distributes food to the homeless in Minsk, he was sentenced to five years in prison. Where the fundamental right to food and freedom of expression is criminalized, the rule of law has long had no place. Since the rigged presidential elections on 9 August 2020, the number of political prisoners in Belarus has continued to rise. The fact that attacks on humanity are becoming part of everyday life in Belarus is something we cannot silently accept. I demand the immediate release of Aliaksandr Bialou and all other political prisoners in Belarus! I stand up for this out of solidarity with him and with Belarusian citizens*. #WeStandBYyou
*The Food Not Bombs initiative started in 2006 in response to supply shortages and high military spending and has become a fixture in Minsk. It is one of many non-profit initiatives that has since ceased activity due to ongoing repression. Food is a right, not a privilege!”