Photographer, journalist and writer Zmicier Bajarovič is kept in the pre-trial detention centre No. 8 (SIZO No. 8) in Žodzina.
Čyhunačny District Court in Homiel started a new criminal trial of the activist and journalist Aliena Hnaŭk.
Minsk City Court started a criminal trial of the poet and a former Smart School teacher Dzmitry Jurtajeŭ.
In Hrodna, writer and activist Viktar Sazonaŭ was detained.
In Polack, philosopher Ihar Bortnik was detained for the second time.
Minsk City Court issued the sentence in the criminal trial of five activists who, in September 2022, hung big national flags of Belarus and Ukraine on a building on Lesia Ukrainka Street in Minsk.
І. Politically motivated criminal cases against cultural workers, authors and performers
- On 2 April, we learned that Zmicier Bajarovič, a photographer, journalist, writer, poet, and author of the Šali collection of poems, is kept in the pre-trial detention centre No. 8 in Žodzina. On 14 March, he and his wife, Valeryja Bajarovič, were detained near the entrance of their house.
- On 11 April, Čyhunačny District Court in Homiel started a new criminal trial of the activist and journalist Aliena Hnaŭk, already sentenced to 3.5 years in a penal colony on politically motivated charges (presumably, insult of Lukašenka (Lukashenka)). At the request of the Homiel all-female colony, the police opened a new criminal case under Article 411(1) of the Criminal Code (repeated disregard of the orders from the administration of a correctional institution).
- On 14 April, Minsk City Court started a criminal trial of the poet and schoolteacher Dzmitry Jurtajeŭ. Known under his pen name, Zmitrok Buračok, Jurtajeū writes poems for children in Belarusian and Russian. He is a former teacher at the private Smart School in Minsk. Dzmitry also published a collection of poetry in the Russian language, Žgi! (Burn it!) in 2016. On 21 September 2022, he was detained in Minsk. The video filmed by the police shows Dzmitry reading out his verses under duress. Initially, on 23 September 2022, Minsk’s Pieršamajski District Court sentenced him to 15 days of administrative arrest under Article 19.1 of the Administrative Code (petty hooliganism). After that, he received two more administrative sentences, 15 days of arrest each. In November 2022, a criminal case was opened against him under Article 368 (1) of the Criminal Code (insult of the president). In the most recent development, we have learned that he also faces charges under Article 130 (1) of the Criminal Code, which deals with incitement of hostility.
II. Politically motivated administrative detentions and arrests of cultural workers, authors and performers
- On 6 April 2023, the lead singer of Krumkač band Arciom Ramanaŭ was detained in Homiel. On 7 April, Čyhunačny District Court in Homiel sentenced him to 10 days of administrative arrest for “disseminating information products included in the National List of Extremist Content”.
- On 7 April 2023, writer and activist Viktar Sazonaŭ was detained in Hrodna. The court hearing took place in the building of the Leninski district police station three days after his detention. Sazonaŭ received a fine of 925 BYN (370 USD), with his phone confiscated, which he allegedly used to spread extremist content online. Viktar Sazonaŭ is the author of such collections of short novels as Zanatoŭki kantrabandysta (2005), Sandali mitrapalityka (2012), Paezija prozy (2013), Susedskija byli (2015), the novel Sumnaja historyja (2020), the long-format novel Henietyčny alfavit (2021).
- On 10 April 2023 in Polack, philosopher and employee of Polack National Historical and Cultural Museum-Reserve Ihar Bortnik was detained for the second time in two weeks. On 29 March, Ihar was detained at his workplace and escorted in handcuffs during the mass arrests of the museum workers. Police trashed his apartment during the search. Ihar Bortnik was sentenced to 10 days of administrative arrest under Article 19.11 of the Administrative Code (dissemination of extremist products). After that, he received 13 more days of arrest under Article 24.23 of the Administrative Code (violating the procedure of organising or conducting mass gatherings).
- We learned on 10 April that wood carver Zmicier Šaŭčenka who creates wooden toys for children, was detained in Homiel earlier.
- On 11 April, Navapolack City Court arrested photographer and art collector Ihar Supranionak for the second time. On 29 March, he was sentenced to 10 days of arrest under Article 19.11 of the Administrative Code (dissemination of extremist products). On 10 April, he was sentenced to 15 more days in jail under Article 24.23 of the Administrative Code (violating the procedure of organising or conducting mass gatherings).
- On 13 April 2023, musician Aleks Treš, who performs with several local bands, was detained in Homiel.
- On 13 April, Maskoŭski District Court in Minsk issued the verdict in the administrative case against the director of the “Slavcentr” Centre for Slavic Languages and Cultures, Iryna Zimniova, who got fined 740 BYN (295 USD) under Article 19.1 of the Administrative Code (petty hooliganism). Iryna was detained on 12 April together with her husband Aliaksiej and her two deputies, the latter released after interrogation. Police seized all office computers during the search. “Slavcentr” offers courses in Polish and other Slavic languages and consults on the requirements necessary to receive a Pole’s card and enrol in universities in Poland.
- On 14 April, the owner of the ethno-shop Cudoŭnia, Andrej Niesciarovič, was detained in Hrodna.
III. Trials and arrests for using Belarusian and Ukrainian national symbols
- On 6 April, Minsk City Court sentenced five people who, in September 2022, hung big national flags of Belarus and Ukraine on a building on Lesia Ukrainka Street in Minsk. Dzianis Varozaŭ andViačaslaŭ Panciušenka got five years in a medium-security penal colony. Volha Cierach and Kaciaryna Zareckajagot five years imprisonment in a general-regime penal colony. Uladzimir Lavor got four years and nine months in a medium-security penal colony.
- In Biaroza, on 10 April, Jury Lisiuk was sentenced to 7 days of administrative arrest for the national symbols on the cover of his mobile phone. The court interpreted the symbols on the phone as a one-person protest under Article 24.23 (1) of the Administrative Code.
IV. Conditions in places of detention
Cultural workers imprisoned on politically motivated criminal charges remain limited in their rights to receive and send correspondence.
V. Repressions in the book and publishing sector
On 14 April, Kaciaryna Šust, who owns a Belarusian language shop and activity space for children Šustry vožyk, was detained and released in Hrodna. In March, she spent ten days behind bars on administrative charges.
VI. Dismissals for expressing civic position in state cultural institutions
We learned on 13 April that Polack National Historical and Cultural Museum-Reserve worker, Tamara Džumantajeva, was dismissed while serving the administrative arrest.
VII. State vandalism of memorial sites that are significant for Belarusian culture
We learned on 10 April that the plaque commemorating soldiers of the Wilno brigade of the Polish Armia Krajowa (Home Army) disappeared from the Varziany village, Astraviec district cemetery. The inscription on the plate read: “Cemetery of Polish partisans who died on 31.01.1944 fighting against Nazi invaders”.
VIII. Liquidation of organisations and foundations that support culture
On 7 April 2023, Homiel Regional Court held a hearing on the forced closure of a historic-cultural public association Nasledie Polesya, which was renovating the Horvats Palace in Naroŭla and ran a cultural space Dalina Aniolaŭ in the former Cistercian friary.