#FreeViasna: Latest news about jailed Viasna human rights defenders
On September 17, #FreeViasna campaign of solidarity with the imprisoned Viasna members was launched. Here’s the latest news about them.
The investigation into the Viasna case is over
It has been 16 months since Viasna Chairman Ales Bialiatski, his deputy Valiantsin Stefanovic, and lawyer Uladzimir Labkovichhave are behind bars.
The investigation of the criminal case against them has been completed and jailed rights defenders have finished reading the case files, Viasna understands. Valiantsin Stefanovic mentioned this in one of his letters.
Bialiatski, Stefanovic, and Labkovich were initially accused of large tax evasion. Later, however, these charges were dropped and new accusations were made—of smuggling and financing of group actions that grossly violate public order. Political prisoners face from 7 to 12 years of imprisonment.
Vigil held in Zurich to protest Bialiatski's imprisonment
The vigil “Freedom to Ales Bialiatsky, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize 2022" was held in Zurich. It was organized by the German—Swiss human rights organization Libereco—Partnership for Human Rights, Razam Switzerland, and Amnesty International Switzerland.
Libereco activists continue to collect signatures for the release of Ales Bialiatski and all Belarusian political prisoners. At the moment, more than 80,000 signatures have been collected. After the signatures have been collected, the appeal will be sent to the Belarusian Ambassador to Germany Dzianis Sidarenka and Honorary Consuls of Belarus to Germany René M. Schröder and Frank Kossick.
In solidarity with Belarus, Libereco launched the #WeStandBYyou campaign in July 2020, with members of European parliaments campaigning to release Belarusian political prisoners. To date, more than 300 MPs from more than a dozen European countries have taken on symbolic ‘godparenthood’ of political prisoners in Belarus.
Jailed journalist Maryna Zolatava: "Bialiatski's Nobel Prize inspires all political prisoners"
On the occasion of Marina Zolatava's birthday on November 6, the blog Liudi (People) collected quotes from her letters. In one of them, the journalist imprisoned for her work mentioned Ales Bialiatski:
“During this 18 months [of imprisonment—ed.] I have had very different feelings inside me, both negative and positive. Among the latest positive events was the news that Ales Bialiatski had won the Nobel Peace Prize.
The news comes very late here, but interestingly enough, a few minutes before I found out, I was walking down the prison corridor with him. And he, the humble man, didn't say anything.
Just imagine, a man who won the Nobel Peace Prize is sitting a few cells away from you. I think this Bialiatski Prize motivates and inspires all political prisoners.”
Uladzimir Labkovich: “The main thing is to be able to read and write”
Сoordinator of the Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections campaign, political prisoner Uladzimir Labkovich sent a short message from behind bars.
“I don't care about my physical condition anymore. The main thing is to be able to read and write,” the human rights activist wrote in the letter.
During Labkovich's incarceration, his eyesight severely deteriorated and he has frequent headaches.
One year since the conviction of Homieĺ human rights defenders
One year ago, on November 3, 2021, the head of the Homieĺ branch of Viasna Leanid Sudalenka and his assistant Tatsiana Lasitsa were sentenced. They received three and two and a half years of imprisonment, respectively. Judge Siarhei Salouski decided the case.
Sudalenka is serving his term in a penal colony, and Lasitsa was pardoned and released in September.
Three days left to support convicted Viasna members
There is still time to donate money through BySol to help Marfa Rabkova and Andrei Chapiuk cover lawyer expenses. Rabkova and Chapiuk were sentenced to 15 and 6 years in prison, respectively. In total, the ten defendants in this case received a total of 94 years in prison.
“Every action makes a difference”: how one can support political prisoners
A sticker featuring Marfa Rabkova was put on the historical monument located on the Georgian Military Highway between the ski resort town of Gudauri and the Jvari pass. Viasna human rights defender Dziyana Pinchuk explains that it is one of the means of disseminating information and highlighting Rabkova’s case.
“We should keep political prisoners in Belarus on the agenda and talk about them in any way we can: through the media, in social networks, at public events, and in conversations with relatives. Every action makes a difference.
There's an Instagram account @freemarfa, which was created in solidarity with the rights advocate [Marfa Rabkova] who's been in detention for more than two years. Take pictures of Marfa’s images in various places and tag her on Instagram.”