Slow Release of Political Prisoners - Politics & Civil Society Digest
Under pressure from the West, Belarusian authorities have begun to release political prisoners. It appears that Lukashenka is prepared to take a long time to release all prisoners to reap as many benefits as possible. Over a dozen protestors and three former presidential candidates have been in custody since 2010.
Lukashenka negotiates release of political prisoners. Reuters reported that Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov met Lukashenka in Minsk last week. According to Mladenov's letter obtained by Reuters, Lukashenka has agreed to release at least four prisoners by the end of this week and drop charges against another two. All remaining political activists would be released by the beginning of October.
Pardoned political prisoners. On 1 September Lukashenka pardoned four more people convicted on the mass riot case of the Ploscha events on 19 December 2010. They are Ales Kirkevich (Young Front), Andrey Protasenya (Romanchuk’ election team), Oleg Gnedchik and Dmitriy Doronin (civil activists). Earlier, on 11 August, nine other participants of the Ploscha events were pardoned. All of them had to write a pardon letter to Lukashenka.
Charges dropped. On 23 August criminal charges against seven people on case of mass riots in Minsk on December-19 were dropped due to lack of evidence. These people are Ryhor Kastusiou (ex-presidential candidate), Natalia Radina (journalist), Oleg Korban (United Civic Party (UCP) youth organization), Anatoly Lebedko (UCP Chairperson), Anatol Paulau (UCP member), Ales Arestovich (Statkevich’s election team), and Vladimir Kobets (Sannikov’s election team).
Key figures remain in prisons. Around 15 people remain in prison convicted under articles of the Criminal Code for organization or participation in the Ploscha events on December 19, including three ex-presidential candidates: Andrey Sannikov (5 years), Nikolay Statkevich (6 years), Dmitriy Us (5.5 years). Ales Byalyatsky, chairperson of the Human Rights Center Viasna has also been in prison since 4 August on tax evasion charges.
Ihar Sluchak sentenced to 3 days imprisonment. On 30 August, Gomel District Court found Ihar Sluchak guilty of using obscene language in public and sentenced him to 3 days imprisonment. Ihar Sluchak was detained on 26 August, when he was going to his press-conference to discuss ways to translate the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ paperwork into Belarusian.
KGB questioned EHU students. Several students of the Vilnius-based European Humanities University were questioned by the KGB across Belarus last week. Interrogations have been reportedly held in Minsk, Svetlahorsk, Slutsk, Homel. The secret services inquired about the EHU structure.
Russian human rights activist is announced persona non grata in Belarus. On 27 August, at the Belarusian-Lithuanian border crossing, Jury Zhyblade, a member of the Russian Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights, was denied entry to Belarus. From March 2011, ten more people - citizens of Russia and Ukraine, involved in the work of the Committee on International Control, - were deported from Belarus or not admitted, receiving a ban on entry into the country for several years.
Initiative against the nuclear power plant. On 30 August, the civil initiative “Astravetsk plant is a crime” held a press conference in Minsk. Head of the initiative Mikalay Ulasevich said that the Belarusian nuclear power plant project is “a military-political project.... which Russia launched in order to economically incorporate Belarus”.
Roundtable in the lobby. On 31 August, the non-profit institution "For Auto" had planned to hold a roundtable "Fuel and Energy Complex of Belarus: prices for fuel and linkages with other economic sectors" in the lobby of the Minsk Hotel "Orbita". The day before, the hotel administration abolished booking the conference room due to "technical reasons". As a result, civil activists had a conversation with two government officials in the hotel lobby.
Model program for training of andragogies. On 8-9 September, the final international round table "Long-life education: a model program for training of andragogies" will be held in Minsk. The event is implemented jointly by «Deutscher Volkshochschul-Verband eV» (German Adult Education Association) in Belarus and The Academy of Postgraduate Education. The project was funded under the German Support Program for Belarus and was aimed at improving the quality of educational services in Belarus.
People Journalist. The NGO Assembly, Belarusian Movement and other organizations have announced a call for local leaders, journalists and active people. The participants should describe problems in their communities and offer solutions. The best texts will be issued and distributed in leaflet form. The two winners will get a MacBook, the other participants - prizes such as satellite television sets to watch Belsat. The best ten participants will be awarded a trip to Poland.
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.