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What happened to political prisoners between September 26 and October 10

2023 2023-10-11T16:33:36+0300 2023-10-11T17:10:01+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 the prison administration, and the worsening health of political prisoners in custody. Viasna provides a weekly overview of the latest news on political prisoners.

In the last two weeks, 26 people were recognized as political prisoners. Currently, there are 1,489 individuals on the political prisoner list. It also became known that 15 political prisoners, including Yauhen Kalenda, Dzmitry Adarachkin, Andrei Andreyeu, Siarhei Kryuchenia, Yauhen Kharyanau, Ihar Povarau, Arseni Chyzhyk and Ihar Piatran, had completed their sentences and had been released.

Over the past two weeks, we were informed about the convictions of seven individuals who were imprisoned for political reasons:

Political prisoner and anarchist Dzmitry Rezanovich was placed in the Secure Housing Unit

Dzmitry Rezanovich

The political prisoner was moved to a cell-type housing unit until March, based on reports from the Right to Revolt Telegram channel. Earlier reports claimed that Dzmitry faced repeated stints in a punishment cell, was barred from both visits and receiving food parcels, and may get transferred to a high-security prison.

Dzmitry was arrested in late October 2020. On 22 December 2021, the Minsk Regional Court gave his comrades Alinevich and Ramanau a 20-year imprisonment sentence each. Rezanovich received a 19-year prison term, while Dubouski was sentenced to 18 years in a correctional facility. The trial was not open to the public from the initial hearing.

Political prisoner Yahor Liankevich was transferred to a high-security prison in Mahilioŭ

Yahor Liankevich

Yahor was arrested on 9 December 2021 on charges under Article 342 of the Criminal Code for participating in group actions that seriously disrupted public order and Part 2 of Article 293 of the Criminal Code for being part of mass riots.

He was sentenced on 12 March 2022 to five and a half years of imprisonment. In June 2022, the KGB added him to the List of Persons Involved in Terrorist Activities.

He was in prison at Navapolack Correctional Facility No. 1. On September 5, there was a trial inside the prison. Judge Iryna Zharava ordered that Liankevich be moved to a high-security prison.

Political prisoner Larysa Shchyrakova was transferred to Homieĺ correctional facility

Larysa Shchyrakova in court
Larysa Shchyrakova in court

According to the Homieĺ chapter of Viasna HRC, the local historian and journalist is currently held at women's Correctional Facility No. 4.

On August 31, Larysa was given a 3.5-year prison sentence. The charges against her were Article 369-1 of the Criminal Code (discrediting the Republic of Belarus) and parts 1 and 2 of Article 361-4 (promoting extremist activity and repeating the same act). The political prisoner declined to appeal the judgment to the Supreme Court.

No news from political prisoner Mikalai Statkevich for almost 8 months

Mikalai Statkevich. Photo: Uladz Hrydzin
Mikalai Statkevich. Photo: Ulad Hrydzin

This was recently shared on Facebook by the wife of a politician, Maryna Adamovich. The lawyer was once again not allowed to visit Mikalai.

We have not received any news for 232 days.

I visited the penitentiary again, but the lawyer was not permitted to enter as there was allegedly no application from the inmate requesting to see the lawyer.

I left a request for a lawyer's meeting on behalf of Mikalai as his power of attorney representative. Along with that, I sent a telegram and received a confirmation of its delivery from an authorized official.

However, Mikalai Statkevich allegedly doesn't want to communicate with me or meet with a lawyer.

Statkevich has been imprisoned for 3 years and 4 months. He got a 14-year prison sentence in a high-security facility. He's frequently confined to a punishment cell.

Political prisoner Nasta Loika's sentence was left unchanged

Nasta Loika. Courtesy photo: a friend of Nasta
Nasta Loika. Courtesy: a friend of Nasta

On June 20, Nasta Loika was sentenced to 7 years in prison by the Minsk City Court. The was accused of creating a report titled "Persecution of anarchists, anti-fascists, leftists, and social activists in Belarus" (2017-August 2018) that allegedly criticized the actions of police officers.

The trial was held in camera, so little is known about Nasta's situation.

On October 3, the Supreme Court reviewed the appeal of the human rights activist. The judge's board led by Judge Piotr Listratsenka upheld the decision and rejected the appeal. Nasta Loika will soon be transferred to a correctional facility.

Political prisoner Viktoryia Kulsha was again placed in a punishment cell

Viktoryia Kulsha

Viktoryia was convicted twice under Article 411, Part 1 of the Criminal Code for disobeying the prison authorities. The most recent time, the court added one more year to her original three and a half years of imprisonment.

Over the first six months in the Zarečča correctional facility, she spent 92 days in segregation and six months in the Secure Housing Unit. Human rights activists revealed that a prison officer once choked Viktoryia and pulled her around the cell. Viktoryia protested against the appalling detention conditions by hunger-striking multiple times, which caused her to suffer from two heart attacks.

On June 22, she was relocated to Women's Correctional Facility No. 24.

Recently, she was again confined to the punishment cell for an unknown reason.

Political prisoner Uladzimir Hundar was transferred to a high-security prison

Uladzimir Hundar in court
Uladzimir Hundar in court on May 18

This is reported by the Brest division of Viasna HRC.

In June, the Hrodna Regional Court supported the sentence of the political prisoner, who will spend 20 years in prison. He was moved to a correctional facility the following day from a punishment cell. Although Hundar's wife was allowed to visit him, she couldn't because of the transfer.

Upon his arrival at the facility, he was put into a punitive isolation cell at various times. Additionally, Hundar informed his family via letter that they intended to move him to a maximum-security facility.

In early October, the family discovered that he had been transferred to Mahilioŭ Prison No. 4. The reason for the transfer and whether a trial on regime change was held was not disclosed to them.

Political prisoner Vasil Berasneu was admitted to hospital, he needs a kidney transplant

Vasil Berasneu
Vasil Berasneu

The political prisoner, held for his involvement in the "independent trade unions case" at Mahilioŭ Correctional Facility No. 15, was sent to the regional hospital in Mahilioŭ in an urgent matter.

Vasil's health has been deteriorating significantly since his imprisonment, with the most dangerous symptom being the pain in his only kidney. However, medical treatment cannot help in this severe situation, as a kidney transplant is urgently required. The prisoner has been requesting medical help and exams for a while now, but there has been no response. His health issues caused his blood pressure to rise greatly, requiring him to take medication daily.

Vasil is 73 and has led the Orša chapter of the Radio and Electronic Industry Workers' Union, serving as its acting chairman. Judge Anastasia Papko sentenced him to 9 years of imprisonment under a reinforced regime.

Political prisoner Natallia Piatrovich does not receive her letters

On 11 August 2023, the Minsk City Court gave a six-year prison sentence to the 68-year-old political prisoner. As per Article 369 of the Criminal Code, Natallia is also liable to pay over $1000 in compensation for moral damage.

She was found guilty of violating five articles of the Criminal Code. The woman was arrested on 19 December 2022 in her apartment for the comments she made online.

Recently, she wrote a letter where she mentioned that she had not received any mail from the outside.

"I send letters to everyone, but I rarely receive any in return. I don't know what's going on. So, I want to send my greetings, best wishes, and enormous gratitude to all."

Biker Andrei Ivaniushyn, who was released from prison in the summer, detained in a new criminal case

Andrei Ivaniushyn

Andrei is a motorcycle rider from Minsk. Police arrested him on 1 February 2021 in connection with a criminal case related to an incident that happened on 19 September 2020. During the incident, plainclothes police started detaining one of the motorcycle riders, while others defended him. Andrei was charged with using violence against police officers (under Art. 364 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in a correctional facility on 26 February 2021. The inmate served time at Škloŭ Correctional Facility No. 17. On 2 June 2023, Andrei completed a 2-year, 4-month and 1-day sentence and was released.

Recently, it was brought to the attention of human rights activists that Andrei was re-arrested at the beginning of August. He faces charges for three protest-related violations under Article 342 of the Criminal Code.

Prison officials have not shared the results of Ryhor Kastusiou's cancer test with him

Ryhor Kastusiou

RFE/RL Belarus received this information from Dzmitry Antonchyk, son-in-law of the Belarusian Popular Front Party leader. Kastusiou phoned his family and reported severe leg pain and swollen legs due to varicose veins soon after his release from solitary confinement, where he spent ten days.

Having varicose veins in a punishment cell is extremely difficult. At night, you must lie on a bare bunk, and during the day, you cannot sit comfortably.

Even now, Ryhor's relatives claim that he doesn't know the results of his medical examination. The officials refuse to reveal anything about his health condition.

Ryhor Kastusiou, the 66-year-old ex-chairman of the BPF Party, was sentenced to ten years in jail. His health issues worsened during his imprisonment, and he was diagnosed with cancer.

The health condition of political prisoner Aliaksei Ilinchyk has deteriorated in prison

Aliaksei Ilyinchyk
Aliaksei Ilinchyk

Homieĺ chapter of Viasna HRC recently learned that Aliaksei Ilyinchyk, a Homieĺ-based bard and musician, was transferred to the neurological department of the hospital at Pre-trial Detention Center No. 1 in Minsk.

He was accused of libeling and insulting Lukashenka, as well as inciting social discord, resulting in a 2.5-year sentence in a correctional facility.

While in detention, Aliaksei's health declined significantly. His right hand is almost non-functional, and his speech is impaired, making it difficult to communicate. Additionally, he cannot compose letters on his own. His correspondence is restricted, even with family members.

Yulia Yurhilevich, a lawyer, received the Ludovic Trarieux International Human Rights Prize 

Yulia Yurhilevich
Yulia Yurhilevich

The prize was established in 1984 and is granted to lawyers who actively work to safeguard human rights, defend the right to a fair trial, uphold the rule of law, and combat all forms of racism and intolerance, regardless of their nationality or affiliation with a specific bar association. Nelson Mandela was the first recipient of this award, according to the Belarusian Association of Human Rights Lawyers.

Yulia is a lawyer who represented several political prisoners and was disbarred in February 2022. Upon her return from Poland in late August 2022, she was detained and subsequently sentenced to six years in a correctional facility for "promoting extremist activity".

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