As of February 15, 2023, there are 28 Men of Letters in captivity, there are 131 cultural figures in captivity in total.
Criminal cases have been initiated against Christian musicians Andrej and Viera Mamojka; singer Aliaksandra Zacharyk; imprisoned activist and publicist from Pružany Aliena Hnaŭk.
A new trial resumed in the case of political prisoner, local historian Uladzimir Hundar, sentenced to 18 years. Sentences were passed in the criminal cases of journalist and essayist Andrej (Andžej) Pačobut – 8 years of imprisonment in a maximum-security colony; Uladzimir Bućkaviec – 3 years in a maximum-security colony.
Trials have begun within new criminal cases against imprisoned philosopher Uladzimir Mackievič, sentenced to 5 years, and against a politician and advertiser, performer of the song “Mury” Siarhiej Cichanoŭski, sentenced to 18 years.
The authorities have begun trials in criminal cases against Valieryja Kasciuhova, the founder and editor of the website of the expert community “Naše mnienie”, and against Natallia Dulina, a linguist and translator from the Italian language.
Prosecutor Aliaksandr Karoĺ has demanded to punishment human rights defender, writer, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Alieś Bialiacki with 12 years in a penal colony and with a fine of 5,000 base units (185,000 rubles or $73,200).
On February 13, Alieś Bialiacki said his last word in court, in which he called the case of the human rights center “Viasna” politically motivated, emphasized the violation of language rights in the judicial process and called for a broad dialogue in society.
I. Criminal politically motivated cases against cultural figures, authors and performers
- On February 1, in Minsk, police detained a married couple of Christian musicians Andrej and Viera Mamojka. A criminal case has been initiated against them for participation in the peaceful protests of 2020 under Art. 342 of the Criminal Court (organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order, or active participation in them). The basis was a photograph of the spouses on the road during peaceful protests against election fraud in 2020.
- On February 1, a trial in the case of political prisoner, local historian Uladzimir Hundar, resumed in the court of Lieninski district of Hrodna. He is accused of insulting prosecutor Liudmila Hierasimienka. Uladzimir Hundar refused to testify both during the investigation and at the trial, he referred to Art. 27 of the Constitution, which allows not to testify against oneself. The trial is open. Uladzimir Hundar’s previous sentence was 18 years in prison.
- On February 2, the authorities initiated a new criminal case against activist and publicist from Pružany Aliena Hnaŭk for “malicious disobedience to the colony administration”. Aliena Hnaŭk, who is serving her sentence in Homieĺ colony No. 4, was placed in a cell-type room until February 24, she was deprived of almost all care packages, calls, meetings and the possibility of shopping was reduced from three basic amounts to one (32 rubles).
- On February 6, 2023, in the Minsk City Court, they started an open trial in the criminal cases of Valieryja Kasciuhova and researcher Tacciana Kuzina. Valieryja Kasciuhova is the founder and editor of the expert community website ” Naše mnienie”, editor and author of the collection of analytical reviews about the development of the situation in Belarus over a year “Bielorusskij ježiehodnik”, the head of an expert monitoring group “Belarus in Focus”. On June 30, 2021, Valieryja Kasciuhova was detained after a search of her apartment, and placed in a pre-trial detention center on Valadarskaha Street in Minsk. Valieryja Kasciuhova was accused under Art. 361 of the Criminal Code (calls for actions aimed at harming national security of the Republic of Belarus), as well as under Part 1 of Art. 357 of the Criminal Code (conspiracy to seize power by unconstitutional means).
- On February 8, 2023, the regional court in Hrodna passed a sentence in the case of journalist and essayist, political prisoner Andrej (Andžej) Pačobut – 8 years of imprisonment in a maximum-security colony. The trial was held in a closed session (judge Dzmitry Bubienčyk). Andrej Pačobut was accused of calling for sanctions under Art. 361.3 of the Criminal Code and Art. 130.3 of the Criminal Code (inciting racial, national, religious or other social enmity or discord). Andrej Pačobut was detained on March 25, 2021 in Hrodna after a search of his home. On October 4, 2022, the KGB added the journalist to the “list of persons involved in terrorist activities.” Andrej Pačobut has serious health issues, nevertheless, the political prisoner has been placed in solitary confinement. Correspondence with the journalist is practically blocked, especially in Polish. Andrej Pačobut is an essayist, journalist, publicist, blogger, poet, songwriter, musician, author of the book “System Białoruś”, 2013, in which he raises the problems of Belarus and the countries of the post-Soviet space. Andrej Pačobut consistently called the attack of the USSR on Poland in 1939 aggression and wrote the truth about the persecution of the Polish minority in Belarus. On March 31, 2021, human rights activists recognized Andrej Pačobut as a political prisoner and called for him to be immediately released from custody and for his criminal prosecution stopped, as well as to stop the persecution of representatives of the Polish national minority, the use of Art. 130 of the Criminal Code for the purpose of punishment for expressing opinions about historical facts, which is incompatible with the obligations of the Republic of Belarus within the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
- On February 7, the Minsk Regional Court started a closed trial of Natallia Dulina, a linguist, translator from Italian, former teacher of Minsk State Linguistic University and associate professor. Natallia Dulina was detained on October 3 in Minsk. A criminal case was launched against her, she is charged under Art. 342 of the Criminal Court (organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order, or active participation in them). During 2022, Natallia Dulina was detained four times and tried under politically motivated administrative articles. On September 9, 2020, together with her teaching colleagues, she spoke in a video message where she supported the students, condemned the actions of the police officers and the position of the university administration. On October 29, 2020, she was dismissed from the university.
- On February 9, in the court of Leninski district, prosecutor Aliaksandr Karoĺ demanded for human rights defender, writer, laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize Alieś Bialiacki a term of imprisonment of 12 years in a penal colony and a fine of 5,000 base units (185,000 rubles or $73,200). On February 13, the trial in the case of the human rights center “Viasna” ended in the court of Lieninski District. On February 13, Alieś Bialiacki said his last word, in which he called the “Viasna” case politically motivated and separately noted the violation of language rights in the court proceedings: “The situation with the language in the court is extraordinary: the prosecution and the court categorically refused to speak Belarusian, despite that I, as the accused, am a Belarusian-speaking person in life. I speak, write, and think in Belarusian. I remind you that the Belarusian language is a state language, and you, as state officials, should know two state languages, including Belarusian, and not just struggle to connect two words. Therefore, you are obliged to speak in Belarusian with Belarusian-speaking citizens accordingly. For example, as provided for by the Law “On Appeals of Citizens”: if you write in Belarusian, any official department will respond to you in Belarusian. This put me in an unequal position with the prosecution. I was not given the opportunity to thoroughly and in detail explain my position, to dispute the unjust and meaningless accusation.” Alieś Bialiacki called for the beginning of the dialogue: “We need to start a broad public dialogue aimed at national reconciliation, no matter how difficult it may seem to someone to go for it. The premise of such a dialogue must be the release of all political prisoners, a large-scale amnesty, and an end to repression, because there is no point in amnesty if people are released with one hand and continue to be imprisoned with the other. Representatives of the authorities, as well as representatives of the general public, political parties and movements, those who are currently in prisons, and those who are fleeing repression and had to go abroad, should take part in such a dialogue. Besides the head of “Viasna” Alieś Bialiacki, among the accused there is his deputy Valiancin Stefanovič and coordinator of the campaign “Human rights defenders for free elections” Uladzimir Labkovič. Dzmitry Salaŭjoŭ was tried in absentia, because he is outside the country. Alieś Bialiacki and his colleagues were arrested on July 14, 2021, and since then they have been held in pre-trial detention center No. 1 on Valadarskaha Street in Minsk. Human rights defenders are tried under Part 4 of Art. 228 (“smuggling by an organized group”) and Part 2 of Art. 342 of the Criminal Code (“financing of group actions that grossly violate public order”). The trial is open.
- On February 13, in the Škloŭ District Court there was to take place a hearing of the case “On transfer to a different type of correctional institution and change of regime conditions” against Uladzimir Mackievič. The court session was moved to the territory of Correctional Colony No. 17, where Uladzimir Mackievič is now located. Neither the relatives nor the lawyer managed to get to the trial.
- On February 13, it became known that a criminal case had been launched against singer Aliaksandra Zacharyk under Art. 342 of the Criminal Court (organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order or active participation in them). She was detained on January 30, her house was searched. Aliaksandra Zacharyk performed with the band “Apple Tea”, worked on her own project “ZAKHARIK”, participated in the project “Voice” and the selection for “Eurovision” from Belarus.
- On February 13, the Homieĺ Regional Court sentenced Uladzimir Bućkaviec to 3 years in a maximum-security colony. He was charged with the administration of a community in “VKontakte” “FOR THE SINGLE STATE LANGUAGE in Belarus!” and convicted under Part 1 of Art. 361.1 (creating an extremist formation). Uladzimir Bućkaviec was detained on September 5, 2022.
- On February 14, a new trial began in Žodzina against a politician who wanted to run for presidency of Belarus in 2020, blogger and advertiser, performer of the song “Mury” Siarhiej Cichanoŭski. He is accused of “maliciously disobeying the demands of the prison administration.” The trial is held in prison. According to the prosecution, while serving his sentence, Siarhiej Cichanoŭski allegedly “systematically disobeyed the legal requirements of the administration of the correctional facility, provoked conflicts, including with fellow inmates.” For this, he was “repeatedly subjected to penalties”. In December 2021, Siarhiej Cichanoŭski was sentenced to 18 years in a maximum-security colony under four articles of the Criminal Code: Part 1, Art. 293 (organization of mass riots), Art. 342 (organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order, or active participation in them). 191 (preventing the exercise of electoral rights), Art. 130 (inciting enmity).
ІІ. Politically motivated administrative detentions and arrests of cultural figures, authors and performers
- On February 9, the vocalist of a folk-rock group ” Ban Žvirba ” Dzmitry Haŭrylin, was not released after 15 days of sentence. He had been detained together with his wife on January 27.
- On February 14, it became known about the arrest of musician Aliaksandr Chadasievič. A video was published on pro-government channels, from which it follows that the reason for the detention of Aliaksandr Chadasievič was “negative comments in a telegram”, as well as a Belarusian language cover of the song “Wind of Change” by the band “Scorpions”. Aliaksandr Chadasievič played the bass guitar and sang in various bands, and was engaged in his own project “Lirivial”.
III. Conditions in places of imprisonment
- On February 4, it became known that philosopher Uladzimir Mackievič, who is kept in Škloŭ colony, had been placed in a cell-type room for three months. Uladzimir Mackievič was detained by KGB officers on August 4, 2021, and sentenced to 5 years of imprisonment in a maximum-security prison. Letters stopped coming from him two months ago.
- On February 10, it became known that Mikola Dziadok, the author of the book “Paints of a Parallel World”, was placed in a punishment cell for 7 days. Mikola Dziadok was sentenced to 5 years of imprisonment on November 10, 2021, under three articles of the Criminal Code: art. 342, Art. 361, Art. 295.3.
- On January 15, it became known that designer Dzmitry Kubaraŭ, sentenced to 8 years in Navapolack Colony No. 1, started suffering from worsened eyesight, there began inflammation of the lymph nodes. Medical aid is not provided, the prisoner continues to be placed in punishment cells with inhumane conditions: the cells are cold, the portion of food is reduced, warm clothes are not issued, it is forbidden to lie down during the day.
- Writer, editor-in-chief of the Internet portal “Ježiednievnik” Siarhiej Sacuk in the pre-trial detention center of prison No. 4, where he is awaiting distribution to the colony, does not receive medicine, because of this his health has greatly deteriorated.
IV. Repression in the book and publishing sphere
On February 15, in Baranavičy, in the publishing house “Intex-press” police officers took away equipment: system units, cameras, laptops, computer equipment of the accounting department and the advertising department.
V. Repression for the use of Belarusian national symbols (white-red-white flag and coat of arms “Pahonia”)
On February 1, in Lida, Aliaksandr Piačko received a warning from police officers on social networks for having an “extremist” tattoo on his hands “The Chase” (the coat of arms “Pahonia”). He came to the police, where they recorded a “repentant” video with him and made him promise to get rid of the tattoo.