#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.
Marfa Rabkova and Andrei Chapiuk were transferred to penal colonies from pre-trial detention facilities
On March 15, a human rights activist with Viasna Marfa Rabkova, who was sentenced to 14 years and 9 months of jail, was sent to the Homieĺ penal colony No. 4. Viasna volunteer Andrei Chapiuk was transferred to the Ivacevičy penal colony No. 22 to serve his 5 years and 9 months jail sentence.
Rabkova and Chapiuk were put on the KGB’s terrorist list
The State Security Committee (KGB) updated the list of “persons involved in terrorist activities”. Human rights defenders have learned that Marfa Rabkova and Andrei Chapiuk were put on the list. This means that from now on it is forbidden to transfer money to them.
A released cellmate shared information about Rabkova’s health condition
Marfa Rabkova was detained in pre-trial detention center No. 1 in Minsk for two and a half years. Over this time, the health of a 28 years old woman has seriously deteriorated. She needs a quality check-up and treatment. Some hope remains that she will now receive it in the colony.
Rabkova's cellmate: “Marfa needs biopsy to see if it's benign or something worse”
The coordinator of the Viasna Volunteer Service Marfa Rabkova, who was sentenced to 14 years and nine months in jail, was recently transferred to a women's colony. Earlier she spent two and a half years in detention center No. 1 in Minsk. Over this time, the health of a 28 years old woman has seriously deteriorated. She needs a quality check-up and treatment. Some hope remains that it will now happen in the colony. Tour guide Valeryia Charnamortsava, who shared a cell with Rabkova, told Viasna more about our colleague's health.
Valiantsin Stefanovic: “We all have been doing everything right”
The political prisoner Valiantsin Stefanovich sent a postcard from the pre-trial detention center, where he has been held for 20 months.
“I know I did everything right, we all have been doing everything right. I am convinced that we will definitely meet again,” the human rights activist wrote.
Valiantsin was sentenced to nine years in jail and also received a heavy fine along with his fellows, Viasna head Ales Bialiatski and lawyer Uladzimir Labkovich, who were sentenced to 10 and 7 years, respectively.
Bialiatski and Statkevich shared a political prisoner path, Statkevich exhibition organizers say
An exhibition “The Way of Freedom” dedicated to political prisoner Mikalai Statkevich has been opened in Vilnius. The event is hosted by the Vrublevskis' Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences. One of the photos shows Statkevich and Ales Bialiatski standing together.
“Mikalai Statkevich cooperated with Ales Bialiatski, the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, on many occasions. They stood together at the origins of the Freedom Rally in 1999. They were both political prisoners from 2011 to 2014, both did not want to leave Belarus and saw their future only here.
Now Statkevich and Bialiatski are jailed again for seeking freedom for Belarus. Both have been sentenced to horrendous terms: Statkevich received 14 years in prison, and Ales Bialiatski got 10. They are here together too, in one of the photos at our exhibition,” the organizers said at the opening ceremony.
Viasna activists’ imprisonment among gross violations of human rights in Belarus
On March 22, oral statements were delivered during the interactive dialogue with OHCHR experts on Belarus at the 52nd session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The report on Belarus was presented, and the interested countries, the delegation of Belarus, and NGOs also were given the floor. The names of incarcerated Viasna activists were mentioned more than once.
For example, Bulgaria condemned the conviction of Valiantsin Stefanovic, Uladzimir Labkovich, and Nobel laureate Ales Bialiatski.
Lithuanian Deputy Foreign Minister Mantas Adomenas, speaking on behalf of the Nordic-Baltic states, said:
“There are almost 1,500 political prisoners now in Belarus. Nobel laureate Ales Bialiatski is among them. They are subjected to torture, and violence, they are labeled, and they have no access to medical care. And the lawyers who defend them are disbarred. We condemn politically motivated sentences of human rights defenders and also support the opposition in exile, we stand in solidarity with political prisoners, we call for their unconditional release”.
Right Livelihood spokeswoman said:
“The human rights defenders were treated like the worst criminals: handcuffed, in a cage, denied pens and paper, targeted by smear campaigns by the state media and ultimately given lengthy sentences and unpayable fines.”
Bialiatski’s wife Natallia Pinchuk had a series of meetings with top Polish officials
Natallia Pinchuk met with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on March 21.
“Ms. Natallia is the voice of the Belarusian opposition. She is an extremely strong, charismatic woman who speaks and communicates what her husband cannot, as he is currently in a Belarusian prison, sentenced to 10 years in a political show trial.
Despite the challenges and difficulties brought daily by the war in Ukraine and Lukashenka's repression of Belarusians, we must continue to support the democratic opposition across our eastern border. This is what Polish raison d'etat demands. This is what human decency demands. This is what the future and security of Europe require,” Morawiecki posted on his Facebook page.
Poland will make every effort for Ales Beliatski to be released soon, reports the Belarusian service of the Polish Radio, citing the words of the Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman, Łukasz Jasina.
On 22 March, Natallia Pinchuk met with Polish President Andrzej Duda. They talked about the situation of political prisoners in Belarus, the problems of their families, and security issues in the region in connection with Russia's war against Ukraine. Polish President expressed his gratitude and respect for the steadfastness of Ales Beliatski, who for years has been fighting for human rights in Belarus. He also declared Poland's support for an independent democratic Belarus, the Belarusian people, and their legitimate aspirations to live in a free democratic state.
Natallia Pinchuk also gave a talk about Ales Bialiatski at the University of Warsaw.
“Repressions take place in our country every day. Viasna activists, who have escaped imprisonment, monitor them and help the victims, continuing the cause of Ales while he is in prison with dignity.
I hope that the free world will continue to care about what is happening in Belarus. That he will express solidarity with the Belarusian people. With those who are behind bars, with their families. Support is also needed for refugees - thousands of people - who are now outside the borders of Belarus, as well as for those who are in prison and their families.
This is a decisive moment for our country. Not only the fate of freedom of our people is being determined, but the survival of Belarus as a separate state and the Belarusians as a people is in question” Nobel Peace Prize laureate's wife said.
Next week, March 28, Natallia will give another talk like this at the European Humanities University in Vilnius.
For a long time, there is no news from the head of the Homieĺ branch of Viasna Leanid Sudalenka, who was sentenced to three years in prison.