Position of human rights organizations on the arrest and detention of Siarhei Satsuk
On March 25, Siarhei Satsuk, journalist and chief editor of the Internet daily “Ezhednevnik”, was arrested in Minsk. He was remanded in custody on March 26. On March 26 and 27, searches were carried out at Ezhednevnik’s office and in Satsuk’s apartment; office equipment and documents were seized.
The criminal charge stems from an alleged receipt of money more than a year ago for preparing and publishing a series of articles on corruption on the Internet resource “Ezhednevnik”. These funds are considered by the investigation as a bribe within the meaning of Part 2 of Art. 430 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus (receiving a bribe, for which a sentence of between three and ten years of imprisonment is provided).
Siarhei Satsuk is known as a journalist and editor engaged in investigative journalism. One of his high-profile investigations was a series of publications exposing corruption in the health care system of Belarus. Later, a number of high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Health Care were convicted of corruption.
Satsuk claimed that he received threats because of his journalistic activities related to this investigation. An open letter published in the media after his arrest, but penned long before his detention, said that he had received repeated threats, including threats of criminal prosecution. However, Siarhei Satsuk did not attempt to flee the country or to escape possible criminal prosecution. Moreover, his open letter implies that it was impossible because of the need to take care of his family and, in particular, due to his wife's poor health.
The pre-trial detention of Satsuk who has not attempted to avoid prosecution, taking into account the state of his health and that of his relatives, appears disproportionate and clearly excessive. This may indicate that there is a political motive in prosecuting the journalist aimed at coercing him to stop or change the nature of his activities to disseminate corruption reports.
We consider it necessary that Siarhei Satsuk should be immediately released from custody and measures should be taken to secure his procedural rights.
Human rights organizations will continue to monitor the criminal case.
Belarusian Association of Journalists
Human Rights Center "Viasna"
Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Initiative Group “Identity and Law”
Legal Transformation Center
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Belarusian PEN Center
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
Belarusian Documentation Center