Talks with Lukashenka Only After Release of Political Prisoners - Politics and Civil Society Digest

Mikola Statkevich and other political prisoners

Alyaksandr Lukashenka announced on Monday his willingness to begin talks with the opposition on the future of Belarus. Yesterday Belarusian opposition leaders dismissed any talks until all political prisoners are released. As this digest demonstrates, despite their rhetoric, the authorities show few signs that they are ready to release political prisoners or reduce their repressions. 

POLITICS 

Criminal cases against Natalia Radzina, Aleh Korban and Anatol Liabedzka terminated. On 23 August 2011 criminal proceedings against Natalia Radzina, Oleg Korban and Anatoly Lebedko in a criminal case on mass riots in Minsk on December 19 were terminated due to a lack of evidence. In total, 43 people were convicted under articles of the Criminal Code for organization or participating in post-election protests on December 19th. Most of those convicted are serving prison terms of various lengths; they include three ex-presidential candidates: Andrei Sannikov (5 years), Mikola Statkevich (6 years), Dzmitry Us (5.5 years).

Ales Byalyatsky. The Office of Financial Investigations (UDFR) of State Control Committee refused to release Ales Byalyatsky despite calls from over 600 Belarusian citizens and influential foreign figures. Prominent Belarusian human rights activist Ales Byalyatsky faces up to seven years of imprisonment with confiscation of property for alleged tax evasion. The Belarusian authorities accused Ales Byalyatsky of failing to pay around BR 143.7 million in taxes (approx. $28,700). On August 22 the state TV channel BT showed a propaganda movie titled "Social shadows". BT portrayed Byalyatsky as a thief and a liar.

Pickets in support of Ales Byalyatsky. On August 23, six activists were detained following a picket in support of Ales Byalyatsky staged in downtown Minsk. They were all released later without charges. On August 23, two journalists and a civil activist were detained as a result of a picket in support of Byalyatsky in Mogilev. Two hours later the detainees were released without charge.

Lithuanian journalists banned from entering Belarus. The LTV Lithuanian television was refused entry to Belarus, after journalist Ruta Lankininkaite was declared a persona non-grata by the Belarusian border troops. The journalists were expected to shoot a report on the current economic crisis in Belarus.

Ministry of Justice refused to register "Tell the truth!" as an NGO.  On August 22, the Ministry of Justice refused to register the research and educational NGO "Tell the truth!," headed by a presidential candidate in the 2010 elections Vladimir Neklyaev. The decision will be appealed to the Supreme Court.

 

CIVIL SOCIETY

"Stop Benzin" protest. On August 22, the latest "Stop Benzin" action was held in Minsk because of the 3% increase in petrol prices. The traffic police did not allow the action to go forth, and blocked the entrances to the central part of Independence Avenue. But, according to Director of “For Auto” NGO Artiom Sharkov, the action did take place nonetheless, as its main goal was not to take over the streets, but to articulate protest to the authorities. Adam Byalyatsky, son of human rights activist Ales Byalyatsky, was detained during the action and later fined BR 350,000 (or approximately $70).

Free Parking. "The Republican Association of Persons in Wheelchairs" NGO together with the road police are conducting a long-term "Free Parking" campaign. The purpose of the action is to draw public attention to the on-going problem of the inappropriate use of parking spaces for the disabled. The NGO is gathering volunteers to help in the campaign.

Educational study-tours. The Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies, Institute for Public Affairs (Poland), and European Partnership for Democracy (Belgium) are organizing educational visits to Warsaw (for students and young professionals) and Brussels (for NGO activists and civil society). Visits will take place in November and October 2011 respectively.

 

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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