Out of jail! In February, 20 political prisoners were released
The number of political prisoners in Belarus has been growing steadily for two years. Now 1454 people are recognized as political prisoners. At the same time, some have already served their terms or are released from custody being sentenced to non-custodial punishments. At least 20 political prisoners were released in February, seventeen of whom served their terms in full, and three people were sentenced to home confinement and released from pretrial detention, according to human rights defenders. Viasna recalls their cases.
17 political prisoners have served their full term
Maksim Siliuk spent 2 years, 2 months, and 4 days in jail
Maksim Siliuk from Brest was detained on November 28, 2020, and accused of blocking railways and hanging police effigies. Siliuk was convicted for spray-painting a protest slogan on an outdoor concession stand and installing a metal wire on the railways, as a result of which an electric train was delayed for 16 minutes. On May 18, 2021, the Lieninski District Court of Brest sentenced the political prisoner under Part 2 of Article 339 of the Criminal Code, “hooliganism”, and Article 309 of the Criminal Code, “intentional disabling of a vehicle or means of communication”, to two and a half years of imprisonment. Siliuk fully served his term and was released on February 1.
Pavel Drozd and Ivan Andrushoits spent 2 years and 3 months in jail
Political prisoners Pavel Drozd and Ivan Andrushoits were charged under six articles of the Criminal Code. According to the case file, they “carried out unauthorized access to the information stored in the computer network of Minsk city executive committee. [This] resulted in the disruption of the normal operation of enterprises and government agencies. Also, these individuals copied and deleted files in various formats and entered deliberately false information in them.” On January 28, the Zavodski District Court of Minsk sentenced them to three and a half years in a penal colony each. Later the sentence was commuted by six months on appeal.
Drozd and Andrushoits were released at the beginning of February.
Maryna Kalaskova spent 7 months and 2 days in jail
Maryna Kalaskova was accused under Article 369 of the Criminal Code of “insulting a government official”, the former head of the police department in Hancevičy, Brest region.The victim, Vital Kuliashou, did not appear in court. He appealed to the court for the criminal case to be tried without his participation and filed a suit against the accused in the amount of 1,000 Belarusian rubles (approx. USD 356). Maryna Kalaskova fully admitted her guilt.
The trial was scheduled for March 1, 2022, but Kalaskova, who was under bail, never appeared. She was wanted and later detained and placed in custody. In court, Kalaskova explained that she had no money to buy a ticket from Kryčaŭ to Viciebsk.
The court found Maryna Kalaskova guilty and sentenced her to 18 months of restricted freedom in an open-type penal facility, and a fine of 700 Belarusian rubles (approx. USD 250). However, the custody level was later changed to seven months of imprisonment in a penal colony. The political prisoner was released on February 7.
Yauhen Damaratski and Dzmitry Novik spent 1 year, 10 months, and 22 days in jail
Yauhen Damaratski and Dzmitry Novik were sentenced under Article 342, “Active participation in group actions grossly violating public order”, and Article 364 of the Criminal Code, “Violence against the police”, to 24 months of imprisonment each. They were accused of attending a protest on the night of August 9, 2020, and grossly violating public order, obstructing public transport, and walking on the road. They were also accused of resisting the police, throwing stones and bottles at officers, and hitting their equipment.
Political prisoners were released on February 9.
Hanna Baran spent 1 year, 4 months, and 2 days in jail
Hanna Baran was detained on October 13, 2021, in Pružany, Brest region, as a defendant in the high-profile Dance protest case in Brest. On September 13, 2020, during a protest rally in Brest, people gathered at the city center's intersection and danced in circles. The protesters were dispersed with a water cannon. A criminal case was brought under Part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code for “actively participating in group actions that grossly violate public order”. On November 15, 2021, the Brest District Court sentenced her to 18 months of imprisonment in a general-security penal colony. Baran is the only woman who was deprived of her freedom within in this case.
On February 15, she was released from the penal colony having fully served her term.
Dzmitry Kulakouski spent 1 year and 9 months in jail
Dzmitry Kulakouski is the former head of the criminal investigation department of the Zavodski District Police Department of Minsk. He worked in the police since 2006, receiving professional awards and gratitude from the leadership. After the 2020 presidential election, he resigned due to his disagreement with the authorities’ violent policies.
On December 4, 2020, Kulakouski was detained while trying to leave Belarus. He was later remanded in the Žodzina pre-trial detention center as part of a criminal case under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code, “Insulting a government official”. It is known, that he was tortured in custody. On January 22, 2021, Judge Tatsiana Pirozhnikava of the Maskoŭski District Court of Minsk sentenced Kulakouski to two years of imprisonment in an open-type penal facility. On February 15, he was released.
Anatol Khinevich spent 2 years, 3 months, and 18 days in jail
Anatol Khinevich was sentenced to two years and six months of imprisonment under Part 2 of Art. 363 of the Criminal Code, “Resistance to a police officer”, for allegedly kicking riot police officers during the rally on September 20, 2020.
Khinevich graduated from the International Sakharov Environmental Institute in Minsk. From 2014 to 2018, he worked at the Center for Information Technologies of the Minsk Municipal Executive Committee, developing the municipal online service. He is known in his native Barysaŭ as a song-writer and performer. The political prisoner fully served his term and was released on February 15.
Siarhei Dalivelya spent 1 year, 4 months, and 18 days in jail
Siarhei Dalivelya is a musician, an author of music and lyrics, and the leader of the Banderol rock band based in Minsk. He was sentenced to 24 months of imprisonment in the infamous Zeltser case. On February 16, Dalivelya was released, having fully served his term.
Aliaksandr Ivulin spent 1 year, 8 months, and 14 days in jail
Aliaksandr Ivulin is a football player at the Krumkachy football club, a journalist at the Tribuna.com online media, and the author of the Chestnok Youtube channel. He and his cameraman Yaraslau Pisarenka were detained in the apartment on June 3. The next day the journalist was sentenced to 30 days of administrative imprisonment under Art. 24.23 of the Administrative Code, allegedly for the white-red-white flag in the window of the apartment. After that, he was not released. Instead, he was transferred to a pre-trial detention facility on suspicion of committing a criminal offense under Article 342 of the Criminal Code, “Group actions that grossly violate public order”. On January 19, 2022, in Saviecki District Court of Minsk, Judge Siarhei Shatsila sentenced Aliaksandr Ivulin to 24 months of imprisonment in a general-security penal colony. On February 17, Aliaksandr Ivulin was released at the end of his term.
Valiantsin Labachou spent 1 year, 4 months, and 6 days in jail
Valiantsin Labachou from Mahilioŭ was sentenced to 18 months of imprisonment under Article 368 of the Criminal Code, “Insulting the president of Belarus”. In June 2020, Labachou posted a picture on one of the banned Telegram channels with an inscription that was, according to the state prosecution, offensive to Aliaksandr Lukashenka.
The political prisoner fully served his term and was released on February 17.
Uladzimir Seviaryn and Katsiaryna Hibkaya spent 1 year, 4 months, and 30 days in jail
Uladzimir Seviaryn is a former international secretary of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party. He and his girlfriend Katsiaryna Hibkaya were arrested on October 21, 2021, as defendants in a criminal case on terrorism and were kept in the KGB pre-trial detention center. The charge was later changed to Article 342 of the Criminal Code, “Organization and active participation in group actions grossly disrupting public order”. On May 14, 2022, the political prisoners were sentenced to 18 months of imprisonment in a general-security penal colony.
The two months of remand in the KGB remand prison were not counted. Uladzimir Seviaryn and Katsiaryna Hibkaya fully served their term and were released on February 20.
Andrei Aniskevich spent 1 year, 6 months, and 7 days in jail
Andrei Aniskevich is one of the more than 100 defendants in the Dance protest case brought after the events of September 13, 2020, in Brest, when the protesters got out on the road cross and were dispersed by a water cannon. Aniskevich was charged under Art. 342 of the Criminal Code, “Active participation in group actions grossly disrupting public order”, and sentenced to 18 months of restricted freedom with a referral to an open-type penal facility. He was arrested while trying to leave Belarus. After 15 days of administrative imprisonment, he was placed in a pre-trial detention center to be later transferred to serve his sentence. Andrei Aniskevich served his full sentence and was released on February 20, 2023.
Yan Rymarau spent 2 years and 1 day in jail
Yan Rymarau from Žlobin, Homieĺ region, was convicted under Article 369 of the Criminal Code, “Insulting a government official”. The prosecution claimed that he insulted, including with obscene language, Dzmitry Dziadziun, the deputy head of the Žlobin District Police Department. Rymarau received 24 months of restricted freedom in an open-type correctional facility.
On February 25, 2021, the convict was transferred to penal facility #48 (in the Mahilioŭ region) to serve his sentence. He served his full sentence and was released on February 24, 2023.
Aleh Korzun spent 1 year, 4 months, and 26 days in jail
Aleh Korzun was arrested on September 30, 2021, in criminal proceedings initiated for comments on the Internet after the death of KGB officer Dzmitryi Fedasiuk and IT specialist Andrei Zeltser. On October 7, 2022, Judge Andrei Bychyla of the Pinsk City and District Court found Korzun guilty of “insulting a government official” under Article 369 of the Criminal Code and sentenced him to 24 months of imprisonment in a general-security penal colony. The political prisoner was also fined 3,200 Belarusian rubles ($1,250).
Aleh Korzun served his complete sentence. On February 25, 2023, he was released from penal colony #2 in Babrujsk, Mahilioŭ region.
Three political prisoners got non-custodial terms and were released in the courtroom
In February, as before, the courts in Belarus overwhelmingly sentenced political prisoners to imprisonment. Only three people were released from pre-trial detention facilities after the trials being sentenced to restricted freedom under home confinement (the number may be an underestimate, as human rights defenders do not yet have all the results of the trials of political prisoners):
- Yuryi Khrystaliubau received 2.5 years of home confinement
- Yuryi Dzhenzhera received 2.5 years of home confinement
- Yauheniya Staravoitava received 2.5 years of home confinement
Out of jail! In January, 22 political prisoners were released
At least 22 political prisoners were released in January. Seventeen of them served their terms in full, and four people were sentenced to home confinement and released from pretrial detention, according to human rights defenders. Viasna recalls their cases.