Political Prisoner Attempted a Suicide - Politics Digest

Mikalai Autukhovich

With Ales Bialiatskiy named a human rights defender of the year by the Human Rights Alliance, the government continued to exert pressure on civil society activists resulting in a number of arrests in the regions. The West continued to mount pressure on Belarusian government with EU’s expanded sanctions and the US Senate’s passing of amendments to the Democracy and Human Rights Act.     

Detained businessman Autuhovich attempted to commit suicide. According to human rights activists, on 15 December the businessman convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for an alleged preparation of a terrorist attack and possession of ammunition attempted to slash his own wrists in a prison colony in the Brest region. This accident is said to be the result of the pressure imposed on him on behalf of colony’s staff urging to cooperate and sign the appropriate documents acknowledging his guilt. Belarusian human rights groups Viasna and BHC regard Autukhovich as one of eleven political prisoners.

Ivan Salokhin and Uladzislau Varanetski are detained in Vitebsk. On 11 December, activists of “European Belarus” were detained while trying to hang out a banner that read “Freedom to political prisoners!” on a bridge. The court found Salokhin and Varanetski guilty of violating Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Violations, and issued them with official warnings, as it was their first trial.

Rally to be held on 19 December in Vitebsk is banned. The rally intended to gather on Lenin Street and was not allowed to by authorities due to not having appropriately concluded service agreements with police, medics and public utilities.

Minsk regional court upholds acquittals for three men harassed by police. On 16 December, 2011 Minsk regional court (appellate instance) upheld a lower court ruling, which found that police violated the law when arresting 3 men in the town Krupki.

Belarusian Association of Journalists proposes a round-table with the Ministry of Interior. BAJ sent a letter to the Minister of Interior Anatol Kuliashou, asking to arrange a meeting between law enforcement representatives and journalists to discuss the problem of “relations between journalists and police and the need to single out mass media representatives when covering street protests. BAJ mentioned Ukraine as an example, when Ukrainian Minister of Interior Vitaliy Zakharchenko conducted a number of meetings with mass media representatives. 

INTERNATIONAL 

Representatives of Belarusian opposition speak in London. On 13 December the Belarusian delegation, which included the representative of the United Civil Party Anatolii Lebedko, Irina Bogdanova (campaign “European Belarus”), Igor Drako (“Tell the truth!”), Vitalii Rymashevski and Ales Michalevich (ex-candidates for the presidency) together with Alekseii Yanukevich (leader of BNF party), was received at the British House of Commons. They discussed the issues of political repressions and their affect on the advent of changes in Belarus. According to the Tory leader the main sanction on the part of Britain in this case could be termination of bank cooperation activities between two countries, which should warn British private businesses about presently unfavorable investment environment in Belarus.

Poznan students hold action in support of political prisoners. Polish students organized an action to support Belarusians held in prison to show the nation’s solidarity with those persecuted for political reasons. The action ended with a “minute of sound” - to provoke a wide publicity to the issues and not to silence it.

European Council extended sanctions against Belarus in response to persecution of opposition leaders. Two Belarusian citizens, who participated in the proceedings against Ales Beliatski were banned from entering the European Union. The accounts of three Belarusian organizations are to be blocked accordingly. Moreover, the import of materials, which may be used in weapons production, is also prohibited.

US Senate approves “Democracy and Human Rights Act in Belarus”. It has been initiated by Chairman of the Helsinki Commission of the U.S. Congress Republican Christopher Smith. The approved draft bill includes amendments in to the law “Democracy Act in Belarus”, 2004. 

Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials provided by Pact. This digest attempts to give a richer picture of the recent political and civil society events in Belarus. It often goes beyond the hot stories already available in English-language media.

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