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What happened to political prisoners on September 19-26

2023 2023-09-26T16:29:18+0300 2023-09-26T16:32:07+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

For over three years, the security forces in Belarus have been relentlessly carrying out mass repressions. Each week, the number of political prisoners increases, and human rights defenders receive daily updates about detainees' terrible conditions, pressure from prison administration, and the worsening health of political prisoners in custody. Viasna provides a weekly overview of the latest news on political prisoners.

Last week, Mikita Zalatarou's father, Mikhail Lapunou, was recognized as a political prisoner. Currently, there are 1,484 individuals on the political prisoner list. Last week, news emerged that sixteen political prisoners had completed their sentences and were released: Pavel Rakotsa, Simon Kantsevich, Mikhail Shabaliuk, Viktar Pytsko, Yury Nahorny, Mikalai Liohki, Dzianis Kisialiou, Sviatlana Sharametsieva, Sviatlana Bratsiankova, Kiryl Paulavets, Viachaslau Daskevich, Mikhail Khamitsevich, Tatsiana Zayats, Alena NestsiarovichVolha Matsko, Dzmitry Zelianiak.

Last week, we were informed about the convictions of ten individuals who were imprisoned for political reasons:

Political prisoner Aleh Kanavalau was transferred to a high-security prison

The YouTuber who created the channel Third Region Belarus was apprehended upon his arrival to Belarus from Ukraine on January 10, 2022. He was charged with exposing the identities of law enforcement agents and publishing their personal information after he left for Ukraine. Additionally, he was accused of making "cynical comments" about the deceased KGB officer Dzmitry Fedasiuk and insulting Lukashenka.

Aleh received a five-year sentence from the Homieĺ Regional Court on September 7, 2022. He was taken to Škloŭ Correctional Facility No. 17.

The Škloŭ District Court heard the case of the political prisoner on July 18, for willful disobedience to the demands of prison administration (Article 411 Part 2 of the Criminal Code of Belarus). The outcome is yet to be disclosed to human rights activists.

As per Homieĺ's chapter of Viasna, the political prisoner was moved to Mahilioŭ prison.

Political prisoner and journalist Yauhen Merkis was transferred to the Škloŭ correctional facility

The Homieĺ-based local historian and journalist was arrested on September 13, 2022. The political prisoner was accused of creating or participating in an extremist formation (Part 3 of Article 361-1 of the Criminal Code) and promoting extremist activities (Parts 1 and 2 of Article 361-4 of the Criminal Code). Merkis' case was considered by Judge Aliaksei Khlyshchankou in a closed session. Only the announcement of the verdict was made public. On May 30, the Homieĺ Regional Court sentenced Yauhen to 4 years in prison.

According to the prosecution, Yauhen shared information related to the movement of military equipment with various Telegram channels. They also reported that Merkis worked for the Belsat TV channel, which the authorities recognized as extremist.

According to the BAJ, on September 9, Yauhen was transferred to Correctional Facility No. 17.

Political prisoner Dzmitry Sushchyk, who was re-arrested at the end of his term, was convicted in a new criminal case

Dzmitryi Sushchyk

The Hrodna Leninski District Court considered a new criminal case against Dzmitry from August 10 to September 1. This time he was charged under Article 411 of the Criminal Code (willful disobedience to the demands of the prison administration). Judge Natallia Kozel found him guilty and sentenced him to an additional year and 15 days in prison on top of his 1.5-year sentence. Dzmitry was due to be released in August after serving his full sentence but was re-arrested and detained in a new case.

Political prisoner and lawyer Aliaksandr Danilevich was transferred to Ivacevičy correctional facility

On April 10, the Minsk City Court handed a 10-year sentence to the lawyer for aiding and abetting the encouragement of sanctions initiated by athletes Aliaksandra Herasimenia and Aliaksandr Apeikin.

These two athletes were previously sentenced in absentia to 12 years in prison under Part 6 of Article 16 and Part 3 of Article 361 of the Criminal Code. The lawyer was also found guilty of promoting extremist activity under Part 1 of Article 361-4 of the Criminal Code. Aliaksandr was accused of providing legal advice, preparing strike appeals, and giving an interview to the "extremist Internet resource"

Although these actions were classified as such, Aliaksandr pleaded not guilty and maintained that he was simply performing his professional duties.

On July 14th, the Supreme Court upheld the political prisoner's verdict during a closed session.

Journalist Pavel Padabed's sentence was left unchanged

In June, the journalist and videographer was sentenced to four years in prison in Minsk. He was charged with creating or participating in an extremist formation under Part 3 of Article 364-1 of the Criminal Code. Judge Yauhen Pisarevich presided over the case.

Padabed was accused of collaborating with Belsat TV and preparing investigative stories on the disappearance of cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski and the murder of journalist Pavel Sheremet.

The Supreme Court recently upheld the verdict and dismissed the appeal against it, according to BAJ. Judge Yury Rutkouski chaired the judicial panel that made the decision. Pavel will soon be transferred to a correctional facility.

Political prisoner Dzianis Dzikun was placed in a punishment cell

In late 2022, three "rail partisans" from Salihorsk, including Dzianis Dzikun, received a 21-23-year prison sentence. They were found guilty of setting fire to a signaling, centralization, and blocking relay cabinet at a railway station on the fourth day of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. In addition, they were convicted of committing "high treason" by enrolling in the Peramoha plan [an initiative of the opposition in exile to register and coordinate people in Belarus who were ready to act when the moment is right – TN], and being associated with BYPOL [the association of former Belarusian law enforcers in exile who supported the uprising – TN]. The trial was held in a closed session for three months.

Dzianis Dzikun was moved to the Horki correctional facility in late April. Upon arrival, he was placed into a punishment cell. When his time there expired, he was moved to the general population but was subsequently segregated again multiple times. Mediazona reported that on June 21st, Dzikun was placed back into a punishment cell. He has not been in contact with anyone for several months.

The World Association of Polish Media Abroad honored political prisoner Andrzej Poczobut

Andrzej Poczobut, a journalist and leader of the Polish minority in Belarus, was awarded the "Freedom of Speech" accolade.

“As you know, he has yet to receive the statuette. We have lodged numerous appeals and protests on behalf of Andrzej Poczobut. His current situation is dire, as the authorities are attempting to break him physically after failing to do so spiritually and ideologically under Lukashenka's regime. Let's keep this case at the forefront," urged Teresa Sygnarek, head of the World Association of Polish Media Abroad.

Mr Poczobut was given an 8-year prison sentence under Article 361 of the Criminal Code (incitement to harm national security) and Article 130 of the Criminal Code (incitement to hatred).

Review of the news on political prisoners from September 12 to 19

Viasna provides a weekly overview of the latest news on political prisoners

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