Out of jail! In October, 28 political prisoners got free
The number of political prisoners in Belarus has been growing steadily for two years now. Now 1389 people are recognized as political prisoners, including 53 individuals who were added to the list in October. At the same time, some have already served their terms and are released from custody. According to human rights defenders, at least 28 people were released in October—16 of them fully served their sentences on politically motivated charges, and another 12 were sentenced to home confinement and released in the court. Viasna recalls their cases.
Sixteen political prisoners were released after having served their full sentences
Artsiom Shalehin spent 389 days in jail
Artsiom Shalehin was sentenced to 24 months of freedom restriction in an open-type penal facility under Article 369 of the Criminal Code for ‘insulting the president’. He has been serving his term since September 14, 2021.
Shalehin was repeatedly placed in a disciplinary cell for “violations” and spent there a total of 30 days. In addition, he was deemed prone to extremism and destructive activities and put on the preventive register. Finally, Shalehin's custody level was raised to imprisonment, and he was transferred to a penal colony.
The political prisoner fully served his sentence and was released on October 7.
Bahdan Shymanovich spent 396 days in jail
Bahdan Shymanovich is a former anesthesiologist and emergency room doctor who has become a craftsman. He was convicted of ‘insulting the president’ and sentenced to 12 months in an open-type penal facility for burning an effigy of Lukashenka.
Shymanovich finished serving his term and was released on October 10.
Artsiom Kasach spent 544 days in jail
Artsiom Kasach from Viciebsk was sentenced to 18 months of restricted freedom in an open-type penal facility for an “insulting” comment on a video about a government official who had manipulated members of the election commission to rig the election.
Kasach was initially sentenced to home confinement but after a prosecutor’s appeal, the sentence was changed to a custodial term.
The political prisoner started to serve his term on April 15, 2021. He was released on October 10, 2022, at the end of his term.
Yuliya Marchanka, Piotr Marchanka, and Anton Shnip spent 436 days in jail
On December 28, 2021, three musicians of the Irdorath band, Yuliya Marchanka, Piotr Marchanka, and Anton Shnip, were sentenced to 18 months in jail each. They were detained on August 2, 2021, at a summer house near Minsk while celebrating the birthday of Nadzeya Kalach, the band’s lead vocalist, together with other musicians.
Three political prisoners were released on October 11, 2022.
Alina Voitsekh spent 672 days in jail
Alina Voitsekh from Mačuliščy was detained on November 29, 2020.
First, she was convicted in an administrative case, and then re-detained on criminal charges of violence against a police officer under Article 364 of the Criminal Code. According to the prosecution, Voitsekh threatened an officer in a police department, removed his mask, tried to break free, and pushed and bit the officer's thigh, causing him physical pain. Voitsekh pleaded not guilty in court. According to her testimony, a plainclothes police officer first grabbed her jacket, pushed her into the hallway, and hit her face twice with his palm when she asked him to identify himself. In response, Voitsekh bit his thigh. The enraged policeman threw her to the floor and stepped on her face.
On January 26, 2021, the Centraĺny District Court of Minsk found Alina Voitsekh guilty and sentenced her to 24 months in a general-security penal colony.
The political prisoner served her sentence in full and was released on October 14, 2022.
Aliaksandr Kurhanski spent 383 days in jail
Aliaksandr Kurhanski worked with the Ministry of Emergency Situations for more than 15 years. At the time of his arrest, he was a squad leader in Hrodna unit.
On September 30, 2021, he was detained in the Zeltser case. Shortly after the arrest, he was sacked and ordered to pay 7,000 Belarusian rubles ($2,800) for early contract termination. Kurhanski was accused of insulting a government official and inciting social hatred under Article 369 and Part 1 of Article 130 of the Criminal Code. On August 12, 2022, the court sentenced the political to 18 months in jail and ordered a fine of 1,600 Belarusian rubles ($640).
On June 28, 2022, the KGB put Kurhanski on the list of persons involved in terrorism, and in September 2022 law enforcers added him to the extremist list as well.
Kurhanski fully served his term and was released from the penal colony on October 17, 2022.
Aliaksandr Tsymbalist spent 385 days in jail
Aliaksandr Tsymbalist was detained in the Zeltser case for his commentaries posted on the internet.
On October 17, 2022, the Minsk Municipal Court found him guilty of ‘insulting a government official’ and ‘inciting social hatred’ under Articles 369 and 130 of the Criminal Code and sentenced him to 19 months of imprisonment. Given the time spent in pre-trial detention, the political prisoner had only a few days left to serve and was released on October 19.
Uladzislau Hulis spent 728 days in jail
Uladzislau Hulis was detained in September 2020 for painting We will not forget graffiti on the place where the police shot to death the demonstrator Aliaksandr Taraikouski. He was charged with ‘hooliganism committed by a group of persons’ and sentenced to 24 months of imprisonment under Part 2 of Article 339 of the Criminal Code.
On October 20, 2022, Hulis was released after serving his jail term.
Aleh Filipau spent 459 days in jail
Aleh Filipau from Brest was found guilty of ‘insulting the president’ and sentenced to 18 months in jail under Part 2 of Article 368 of the Criminal Code for painting protest slogans on a residential building.
Filipau served his sentence in full and was released on October 21, 2022.
Dzianis Hutsin spent 764 days in jail
Dzianis Hutsin administered the oppositional Drivers 97 Telegram channel. He was detained in Minsk on September 22, 2020, and placed in pre-trial detention.
The closed-door trial did not begin until 10 months later. On June 4, 2021, the Zavodski District Court of Minsk sentenced Hutsin to two years and six months in a general-security penal colony. He was convicted of ‘organization of group actions that grossly violate the public order’ under Parts 1 and 2 of Article 342. It is known that the political prisoner pleaded not guilty at the trial.
The political prisoner served his sentence in full and was released on October 25, 2022, dissident.by reports.
Stanislau Paulinkovich spent 575 days in jail
Stanislau Paulinkovich is an opposition activist from Mahilioŭ. Initially, he served his 24-months term for ‘insulting a judge’ (Article 391 of the Criminal Code) in an open-type penal facility. But on April 29, 2022, the court raised Pavlinkovich's custody level to imprisonment in a penal colony at the request of the penal facility administration.
The political prisoner served his sentence in full and was released on October 24, 2022, Mayday reports.
Vera Tsvikevich spent 273 days in jail
Vera Tsvikevich, a national of Russia, was detained on January 27, 2022, in a criminal case on ‘group actions grossly violating public order’ (Article 342 of the Criminal Code). In August 2020, a photo of her posing in front of the soldiers at one of the rallies was on the front page Kamsamolskaya prauda, a very popular Belarusian newspaper.
On May 6 Judge Volha Malashenka found Tsvikevich guilty and sentenced her to 12 months of imprisonment in a general-security penal colony.
Activists learned that the political prisoner was released on October 26, having fully served her term. After her release, she was immediately brought to the Russian border, as Tsvikevich was banned from entering Belarus for five years. She was not even given time to pack her things.
Dzmitry Skretutski spent 450 days in jail
Dzmitry Skretutski, an entrepreneur and former police officer, was detained on July 23, 2021.
Skretutski was first sentenced to 12 days of administrative imprisonment and later re-detained on criminal charges under Part 1 of Article 342 (‘organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order, or active participation in them’). The prosecution claimed that he “called for participation in illegal mass actions of a social and political nature in Telegram channels.” On November 16, 2021, the Maladziečna District and City Court sentenced Skretutski to 18 months in jail.
The political prisoner served his sentence in full and was released on October 27, 2022.
Sviatlana Sauchanka spent 333 days in jail
Sviatlana Sauchanka was sentenced to 12 months in a penal colony under Article 339 of the Criminal Code (‘hooliganism’). She tore down the flag attached to one of the cars participating in the pro-government motor rally and hit the car several times with a plastic flagpole.
Sauchanka served her sentence in full and was released from the penal colony on October 27, 2022.
Twelve political prisoners got non-custodial terms and were released in the courtroom
At least 12 political prisoners were sentenced to restricted freedom under home confinement and 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):
- Miraslau Sabchuk—sentenced to 18 months
- Alena Latushka—sentenced to two and a half years
- Katsiaryna Yeudakimava—sentenced to three years
- Dzianis Korshun—sentenced to two and a half years
- Alena Androshchyk—sentenced to two and a half years
- Raman Bahryi—sentenced to two and a half years
- Viktoryia Zhdanovich—sentenced to two and a half years
- Viachaslau Arestau—sentenced to three years
- Yauhen Hrytsok—sentenced to three years
- Yauhen and Anzhalika Yarmak—sentenced to two and a half years
According to human rights defenders, at least 16 people were released in September, and 11 of them fully served their sentences on politically motivated charges. In addition, in September, three political prisoners were released on amnesty, and one more had his sentence changed and transferred to "house arrest". Viasna recalls their cases.