The Belarusian human rights center Vyasna, which has experienced repression by the Minsk regime, has called on Western society to mobilize for the release of all Belarusian political prisoners.
Seven Vyasna leaders and activists are currently in prison, including Marfa Rabkova, head of the organisation’s volunteer network, who was arrested just a year ago, Valentin Stefanovich, Vyasna’s vice-president, Leonid Sudalenko, head of the Gomel branch, and former vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights, Vyasna. founder Aless Belackis.
“They are accused of funding protests for helping people appeal Belarusian court decisions, providing legal advice and documenting torture,” Vytautas spokeswoman Natalia Satsunkevich told a news conference in the Lithuanian Seimas.
According to her, the leaders of “Vyasna” are also accused of non-registration of the organization and non-payment of taxes for the provided services.
“From a legal point of view, these accusations are a strange invention, from a logical point of view it is a classic politically motivated persecution,” Satsunkevich pointed out.
According to Stefanovich’s wife Alina, it has already become common practice in Belarus to make vague, incomprehensible accusations and change them frequently.
Laima Andriķiene, a member of the “Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats” faction in the Seimas, who has undertaken to stand for Sudalenko, has drawn media attention to the fact that he and his colleagues were tried in secret, in closed court hearings. representatives of civil society or other human rights defenders.
“This makes it very clear that the accusers have failed to gather evidence of Sudalenko’s guilt,” she added.
As Vyasna volunteer Pavel Sapelko told a news conference, the situation in Belarus is tragic and terrible, and the country is “sinking back into the gloomy reality of Soviet times”.
“We feel like our grandparents could feel when the cars of the National Security Committee came to their homes and took people away – the only difference is the car models and the people who go to prison are no longer shot, but imprisoned in inhumane conditions and are subjected to enormous charges. fines, ”he said.
According to Vyasna activist, 35,000 people have been detained in Belarus for a year and a half for political reasons, more than 1,500 people are involved in political criminal cases, and 130 people have been convicted of political charges this August alone.
More than 4,600 people have complained to law enforcement about torture and violence, but no such criminal cases have been filed.
Human rights defenders have identified more than 660 people as political prisoners. There are currently seven human rights activists and 28 journalists in prisons, 250 civil society organizations and dozens of media outlets have been closed.
“The Belarussian regime is very deliberately trying to give the average Belarusian the impression that he is alone. Lawyers lose their licenses, human rights defenders are imprisoned or forced to leave the country, and the same applies to independent journalists, ”said Vītis Jurkonis, a representative of the NGO Freedom House in Lithuania.
He called on citizens of Lithuania and other countries to write a postcard or a letter to one of the Belarusian political prisoners, “to show that they have not been abandoned alone, not forgotten.”
Jurkonis has expressed concern that the Belarusian authorities may soon start using political prisoners as hostages, namely, to negotiate with the West for their release in exchange for concessions in favor of Minsk.
“We must not fall into the trap of 2015, when we indulged in the regime,” he added.