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Chronicle of Human Rights Violations in the Cultural Sphere (June 1-15, 2022)


Between June 1 and 15, 2022, verdicts were passed in criminal cases of Tatsiana Vadalazhskaya, a sociologist, Andrei Kuzniechyk, a poet and translator, Aksana Kolb, an editor of the newspaper “Novy Chas”, journalist and essayist; they began a trial of Uladzimir Matskevich, a philosopher-methodologist, and continued a trial of  Uladzimir Hundar, a local historian (as part of the “Autukhovich group”). The authorities launched a criminal case against Pavel Bialanau, a musician from Hrodna. New charges were brought against Siarhei Satsuk, a writer and journalist. Writers, who are political prisoners, are restricted in their correspondence. The authorities continue to persecute for anti-war statements: Tsina Palynskaya, a journalist and essayist, was detained and fined in Polatsk.

I. Criminal politically motivated cases against cultural figures, authors and performers

  1. On June 3, Siarhei Hun was detained in his summer house. He is charged under art. 342 of the Criminal Code (group actions that grossly violate public order). Siarhei Hun has been the CEO of the event agency “KRONA” since 2012. In 2005, he graduated from the Belarusian State University of Culture (BSUKM), Faculty of Music. Siarhei Hun went on a dry hunger strike in the pre-trial detention center.
  2. On June 7, the Zavodski District Court of Minsk reached a verdict on the case of Tatsiana Vadalazhskaya according to Part 1 of Art. 342 of the Criminal Code (organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order, or active participation in them). Court decision was 2.5 years of restraint of liberty with referral to an open correctional facility (“chemistry”). Tatsiana Vadalazhskaya was handcuffed during the trial. Tatsiana Vadalazhskaya is a sociologist, methodologist, candidate of sociological sciences (PhD), expert of the Agency for Humanitarian Technologies, coordinator of the Flying University and author of books and articles on the following topics: methodology of humanities, cultural policy, and Belarusian modern thinking.
  3. On June 3, 2022, the Mahiliou Regional Court passed a guilty verdict on the case of Andrei Kuzniechyk and sentenced him to 6 years in a penal colony. He was accused of “creating an extremist formation” (Art. 361-1 CC). The trial was held behind closed doors. Andrei Kuzniechyk is a poet, translator from Slovenian into Belarusian, co-author of a textbook on the Slovenian language, author of the Belarusian-language blog for cyclists “BelaVela”, in which he spoke about the life and problems of cyclists in Belarus, translator from Slovenian.
  4. On June 8, it became known that a criminal case has been launched against Pavel Bialanau, a musician from Hrodna, a guitarist of the band “Deviation”. He is accused under Art. 368 of the Criminal Code (“insult to the President of the Republic of Belarus”) for his tattoo. At the time of detention, all Pavel Bialanau’s tattoos were hidden, as always in public places. Police summoned Pavel Bialanau for interrogation and forced him to undress to see the tattoos, in which they found an insult.
  5. On June 8, in Hrodna prison № 1 during the consideration of “Autukhovich group” criminal case, a local historian from Baranavichy Uladzimir Hundar was interrogated. He refused to testify, but told about the beating during his detention: “KGB officers came to my apartment and immediately treated me like a terrorist, demanding to confess to crimes. Then I was beaten by plainclothes”. Uladzimir Hundar is charged with Part 1 of Art. 285 (creation of a criminal organization) and Part 2 of Art. 357 (attempt to seize state power in an unconstitutional way).
  6. On June 9, it became known that Siarhei Satsuk, a writer and the editor of “Ezhednevnik”, was charged under two more articles of the Criminal Code. The Belarusian Association of Journalists managed to find out through his former cellmate that he is now also accused of inciting enmity (Art.130 of the Criminal Code) and excess of power or official authority (Art.426 of the Criminal Code). It is currently unknown which actions of the editor brought about the charges. Siarhei Satsuk worked as the editor of the journalistic investigations department of the “Belarusian Business Newspaper”, the editor-in-chief of the “Ezhednevnik” portal (ej.by). In 1998-1999, he published fiction novels in Russian “Peacekeepers of Cone” and “Special Unit of Purge” under the pseudonym Siarhei Barnatsin. On March 25, 2020, Siarhei Satsuk was detained in a case under Article 430 of the Criminal Code (accepting bribery). On March 26 and 27, the office was searched and Siarhei Satsuk was arrested. On April 4, 2020, the decision to detain Siarhei Satsuk was annulled. On December 8, 2021, Siarhei Satsuk was arrested in the 2020 criminal case. Siarhei Satsuk’s house was searched, his phones and laptops were confiscated. Siarhei Satsuk is being held in a pre-trial detention center №1 in Valadarski street in Minsk.
  7. On June 9, the Prosecutor General’s Office filed a criminal case “for conspiracy to seize state power in an unconstitutional manner (Part 1 of Art.357 of the Criminal Code). Among the accused in the case is Aliaksandr Fiaduta, a writer, editor, journalist, translator, literary critic (Doctor Habilitate in the humanities in the specialty “Literary Studies”), publisher, and political analyst.
  8. On June 9, the Minsk Regional Court started a trial behind closed doors against Uladzimir Matskievich, a philosopher, social and political figure and the founder of the Flying University, who is charged under three articles of the Criminal Code: Part 1 of Art. 342 (Organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order, or active participation in them) for the “March of the People’s Ultimatum” on October 25; Part 1 of Art. 361-1 (Creation of an extremist group or participation in it) for the “Assembly” platform; Part 1 of Art. 368 (Insulting the president) for a video on a YouTube channel. Uladzimir Matskevich was detained on August 4, 2021 after a search of his house as part of a criminal case. He was charged with “organizing actions that grossly violate public order” (Art. 342 of the Criminal Code). On January 4, 2022, he was remanded in custody for another month, until February 4. He was kept in the pre-trial detention center №1 in Minsk until the trial.
  9. On June 13, in Pruzhany there started an open trial over Alena Hnauk, an activist and publicist. Alena Hnauk has been in prison for more than 5 months. Over the past two years, Alena Hnauk has had 17 detentions, 10 administrative cases and fines, and 4 criminal cases have been instituted against her. Under two of them, she has been sentenced to 3 years of “home chemistry”.
  10. On June 15, the Tsentralny District Court of Minsk reached a guilty verdict in the case of Aksana Kolb, the editor-in-chief of the “Novy Chas” newspaper, journalist and essayist, under Part 1 of Art. 342 of the Criminal Code (participation in actions that grossly violate public order). Court decision is 2.5 years of restraint of liberty with referral to an open correctional facility (“chemistry”). Aksana Kolb was released in the courtroom until the commencement of her sentence. Aksana Kolb has been a journalist, essayist and editor of the “Novy Chas” newspaper since 2015.

II. Politically motivated administrative detentions and arrests of cultural figures, authors and performers

  1. On June 3, in Minsk police detained Aliaksei Hurski (Ralph), one of the founders of the karaoke bar “Shum”. In May, the bar lease was terminated. Aliaksei (Ralph) Hurski is a reconstructor, member of the military-historical club “17th Uhlan Regiment of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania” (Minsk), military-historical club “Confederation”, and “22nd Regiment of Chapski. Reconstruction of the order of the Lithuanian regiments of the General Confederation of the Polish King”. (“22nd” Regiment is to be confirmed). He was engaged in the reconstruction of the Napoleonic Wars and the Middle Ages. In posts on social networks he supported Ukraine.
  2. On June 3, police detained Natallia Dulina, a former associate professor of the Minsk State Linguistic University, and sentenced her to 15 days of administrative arrest, for “petty hooliganism” (Art. 19.1) – allegedly Natallia swore obscenely and waved her arms. This is her third detention in 2022. On May 10, Natallia Dulina was released after 15 days for “distributing extremist materials” and she was also sentenced to 15 days in prison for participating in an anti-war rally on February 27.
  3. On June 5, a journalist and essayist Tsina Palynskaya, was detained in Polatsk. The detention took place after a search. The reason for the detention and search was her critical post on Facebook about the visit to Belarus of the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Kirill Gundyaev, known for his active support of Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine. A trial took place on June 7. Tsina Palynskaya was fined for yellow and blue ribbons on her bag and camera, which a police officer noticed on her near the walls of the Polatsk Saint-Euphrosyne Monastery during the visit of patriarch Kirill Gundyaev to Polatsk. The yellow-blue-ribbons were qualified by the court as unauthorized picketing. The decision of the court is a fine of 100 basic units (3,200 Belarusian rubles, or 1,200 Euros). Tsina Palynskaya’s texts from social networks were sent to a linguistic examination.
  4. On June 13, a photographer Yauhien Yerchak was detained in Minsk. On June 15, the Savietski District Court sentenced Yauhien Yerchak to 15 days in jail on charges of disobeying police officers.
  5. On June 13, police detained a history teacher from school №2 of Navapolatsk, Alena Zubrava. On June 14, there was a trial under Art. 19.11 of the Administrative Code (distribution of extremist materials) for her making a repost from Radio Liberty about the death of a political figure and scientist Stanislau Shushkevich in May. The court decision was a 15-day arrest.

III. Conditions in places of imprisonment

  1. Administration of the pre-trial detention center №1 in Valadarski Street in Minsk is blocking correspondence between journalist and essayist Andrzej Poczobut and his son, as they write in Polish. Andrzei Poczobut’s wife, Oksana Poczobut, said that another letter marked “CENSORED” had returned. Prisoner Andrzei Poczobut got back three letters he had written in Polish to his son Yaroslav.
  2. Writer and human rights activist Alies Bialiatski is restricted in correspondence – serving his time in jail №1 on Valadarski Street in Minsk, he does not receive letters from freedom.
  3. An imprisoned activist and publicist Alena Hnauk is restricted in writing texts and responding to letters – the prison administration gives her a pen for only 30-60 minutes a day.

IV. Dismissals

  1. On June 1, the editor of the Department of Contemporary Art Aliesia Bieliaviets and the layout artist Aksana Kartashova were dismissed from the magazine “Mastatstva”.
  2. On June 6, Aliaksandar Vashkevich, the CEO of Belkniha JSC, was removed from the office. “Belkniha” is a book trade enterprise of the Republic of Belarus with 87 bookstores in all regions of the country.