Viasna digest: 16 political prisoners released in August. Most of them fully served their terms
The number of political prisoners in Belarus has been growing steadily for two years now. At the moment 1323 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 16 people were released in August, and 11 of them fully served their sentences on politically motivated charges. Viasna recalls their cases.
Eleven political prisoners were released after having served their full sentences
Aliaksandr Zakharevich served 24 months
Aliaksandr Zakharevich was detained on November 1, 2020, during a peaceful protest and sentenced to nine days of administrative imprisonment. Zakharevich was later accused of ‘violence against a police officer’ under Article 364 of the Criminal Code for stepping on the foot of a traffic police officer when fleeing from the police. He did not admit his guilt. The court sentenced him to 24 months in jail.
The political prisoner fully served his sentence and was released from a penal colony on August 27, 2022.
Uladzimir Katsiubka served 18 months
Uladzimir Katsiubka from Brest was convicted of ‘hooliganism’ for hanging riot police effigies. On May 18, 2021, he was sentenced to 18 months in jail under Part 2 of Article 339 of the Criminal Code.
On August 18, 2022, Katsiubka was released from a penal colony.
Viktar Ivantsou served 24 months
Baranavičy resident Viktar Ivantsou was charged with ‘intentional disrepair of communication lines’ under Article 309 of the Criminal Code. Together with other defendants in the case, they made six attempts to block railway traffic. Some failed, but the blocking worked twice—as a result, train traffic was disrupted. Ivantsou was sentenced to 24 months of imprisonment in a general-security penal colony. It is known that the administration of the penal colony regularly placed the political prisoner in a disciplinary cell.
Ivantsou fully served his term and was released on August 24, 2022.
Andrei Karalenia served 24 months
Andrei Karalenia received a great gift on his 29th birthday on August 27, 2022—on this day he was released from Babrujsk colony No. 2. He served his entire term.
On October 16, 2020, Karalenia was sentenced to 24 months in jail for ‘resisting the police’ during arrest (Article 363 of the Criminal Code).It is known that on August 7, 2020, he was riding a bicycle, just behind a column of cyclists participating in a cycling protest. According to the investigation, he violated traffic rules, since his bike did not have a rear-view mirror and a sound signal. A traffic police officer demanded that the cyclist stop, but he did not react and tried to escape. After the police officer caught up with Karalenia, he resisted, again trying to escape and fighting back.
Siarhei Velikarodnau served 18 months
On May 22, 2021, Siarhei Velikarodnau from Lahojsk was convicted of ‘insulting the President’ and sentenced to 18 months of imprisonment in a general-security penal colony under Article 368 of the Criminal Code. He has been serving his term in penal colony No. 15 in Mahilioŭ.
On August 8, 2022, Velikarodnau fully served his sentence and was released.
Andrei Tsimafeyenka served served 24 months
Viciebsk resident Andrei Tsimafeyenka, 48, was accused of ‘using violence against an employee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ during the rally on September 6, 2020. In December 2020, the court sentenced the political prisoner to 24 months of imprisonment.
On August 21, 2022, the political prisoner fully served his term and was released.
Daniil Kalesnikau served 15 months
Daniil Kalesnikau, a teenager from Žlobin, was released from a juvenile penal colony.
He was convicted of ‘participating in group actions that grossly violate the public order’ under Article 342 of the Criminal Code. On the night of August 9–10, 2020, Daniil and his father, Vital Kalesnikau, were in the city center with other protesters. The father and the son stood together clenching arms in the front row and shouting slogans. As a result, the 17-year-old boy was sentenced to 15 months in jail.
Alyaksei Zikeev served 18 months
On August 27, 2022, political prisoner Aliaksei Zikeyeu was released.
Zikeyeu is a former police investigator. During the 2020 election campaign, he was part of the ex-candidate for presidency Valery Tsepkala's team.
The political prisoner was detained on June 2, 2021. His place of work and apartment were searched. Technical devices were seized at his workplace. On October 29, 2021, Zikeyeu was found guilty of ‘active participation in group actions that grossly violated public order’ under Article 342 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 18 months in a general-security penal colony.
Illia Siliankou served 18 months
Illia Siliankou served his full term and was released from an open-type correctional facility.
A senior student of the Homieĺ State Technical University was sentenced to 18 months of freedom restriction in an open-type correctional facility for ‘insulting the President’. According to the prosecution,On August 13, 2020, he pasted and scattered at least 17 leaflets with Lukashenka's image that “humiliated his honor and dignity.”
Volha Charniak served 12 months
Volha Charniak was convicted of ‘taking part in group actions that grossly violate the public order’ under Article 342 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 12 months of imprisonment for participating in a protest in Minsk on August 9, 2020.
She fully served her term and was released from a penal colony on August 20, 2022.
Siarhei Rozum served 24 months
Siarhei Rozum was convicted in a Railway guerilla case. According to the indictment, on December 14, 2020, Rozum intentionally attached a metal wire between two railway tracks near the town of Puchavičy. No one was injured as a result of his actions. On April 28, 2021, the Puchavičy District Court sentenced Rozum to 24 months of imprisonment under Part 1 of Article 309 of the Criminal Code for ‘intentional disrepair of communication lines’.
On August 31, 2022, the political prisoner served his term in full and was released.
Four political prisoners got non-custodial terms and were released in the courtroom
At least four political prisoners were released from pre-trial detention facilities after the trials awaiting the commencement of their sentences of freedom restriction in open-type correctional facilities (the number may be an underestimate, as human rights defenders do not yet have all the results of the trials of political prisoners):
- Aliaksandr Dzemidovich—sentenced to 2.5 years;
- Uladzislau Navitski—sentenced to three years;
- Natallia Hancharenka—sentenced to three years;
- Kanstantsin Vysochyn—sentenced to three years.
Yuryi Hryher was acquitted of all charges and released in the courtroom
On August 3, 2022, the Lieninski District Court of Hrodna considered the case of a musician and a shop owner Yuryi Hryher. He was arrested in early June 2022 and taken into custody under Article 369 of the Criminal Code for ‘insulting a government official’ in a post he published in 2020.
Judge Ruslan Huryn dismissed all charges against him. The musician was released from custody in the courtroom.