PEN International believes that Poczobut is being targeted for his views and writings critical of the Belarusian authorities. The organisation calls for his immediate and unconditional release, and for his sentencing and conviction to be overturned on appeal.
Please send appeals to the authorities of Belarus, urging them to:
- Release Poczobut immediately and unconditionally, and to overtun his sentencing and conviction on appeal;
- Ensure that, pending his release, he is held in conditions that meet international standards for the treatment of prisoners, including by providing access to adequate health care and regular communication with his family and lawyers.
Send appeals to:
Role: Head of the Department for the Execution of Punishments Department for the Execution of Punishments of the Ministry of Internal Affairs
Email: [email protected]
Send copies to the Embassy of Belarus in your own country. Embassy addresses may be found here: https://mfa.gov.by/en/bilateral/belarus/?asd50 .
Please reach out to your Ministry of Foreign Affairs and diplomatic representatives in Belarus, calling on them to raise the case of Poczobut in bilateral fora.
***Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after 14 May 2023. ***
Please send messages of solidarity to:
Prison No. 1, vulica Kirava 1
230023, Hrodna, Belarus
Messages can also be sent via this form.
Please send copies to Aurélia Dondo: [email protected].
PEN members are encouraged to:
- Publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting the case of Poczobut and the state of freedom of expression in Belarus;
- Share information about Poczobut and your campaigning activities via social media.
Please keep us informed of your activities.
Born on 16 April 1973, Andrzej Poczobut is an essayist, journalist, columnist, blogger, poet, and musician. He is a correspondent of Gazeta Wyborcza – a Polish daily newspaper – and works for several Belarusian media outlets. His book System Białoruś (System Belarus), published in 2013, explores President Lukashenko’s grip on Belarus. Poczobut is a prominent Polish-Belarusian minority activist and holds dual citizenship. He has has been the target of the authorities for years, notably receiving a three-year suspended prison sentence in July 2011 for ‘libelling the President’.
A board member of the Union of Poles in Belarus, Poczobut was detained on 25 March 2021 in Hrodna, Western Belarus, after the Union’s offices throughout the country were searched. He was taken to a detention centre in Minsk and charged with inciting hatred in connection with his coverage of 2020 anti-government protests in Belarus, statements he made in support of the Polish minority in Belarus, and his labelling of the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939 as ‘an act of aggression’. Poczobut was subsequently charged with encouraging sanctions aimed at harming the national security of Belarus in August 2022 and added to the ‘list of individuals involved in terrorist activities’ in October 2022. The Polish authorities repeatedly called for his release, to no avail.
Poczobut was transferred to a pre-trial detention centre in Hrodna in September 2022. His trial opened on 16 January 2023 behind closed doors. He was found guilty and sentenced to eight years in a medium-security penal colony on 8 February 2023. Both PEN Belarus and Polish PEN condemned the verdict. His family said they have have lodged an appeal. On 4 March 2023, the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) reported that Poczobut had been placed in solidarity confinement for a week, for unknown reasons. BAJ further stated that Poczobut has a stomach problem and can only consume certain foods, which are not availably to him in prison, and that he has lost a considerable amount of weight. As documented by PEN Belarus, prison conditions in Belarus are dire. Prisoners are made to share small, insalubrious cells and are largely expected to provide for themselves, relying on family members to bring in food, warm clothes and medicine.
The situation for freedom of expression in Belarus remains a grave concern, as the authorities’ relentless crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly continues unabaited. According to BAJ, 32 journalists were behind bars at the time of writing. In a decision published on 7 March 2023, the authorities designed BAJ as an ‘extremist’ organisation, making it even harder for independent journalists to work in Belarus. PEN Belarus, which was disolved in August 2021 and operates from Poland, has been systematically documenting cultural and human rights violations against cultural figures since October 2019. Their latest report details 1390 instances of violations in 2022 alone; 108 cultural figures were behind bars by the end of the year including writer, Nobel Peace Prize winner and PEN Belarus member Ales Bialiatski, and prominent philosopher and PEN Belarus member Uladzimir Mackievič. The report also documents increased pressure by the authorities on Polish and Lithuanian national minorities. Amendments to the Education Act, which entered into force on 1 September 2022, notably bans instruction in languages other than Russian and Belarusian.
For more information about the work of PEN Belarus – including their latest reports and monitoring findings – please click here.
For more information about PEN International’s work on Belarus, please click here.
For further details contact Aurélia Dondo, Head of Europe and Central Asia Region at PEN International: [email protected]