Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Belarus: Trials begin of writers and journalists detained since December

source : English PEN

Belarus: Trials begin of writers and journalists detained since December

Trials have begun against Belarusian writers and journalists who were detained following demonstrations against the results of the flawed presidential election of 19 December 2010. English PEN renews its calls for the dismissal of these politically-motivated criminal cases, the release of all writers in prison and an end to their harassment.

Vladimir Neklyaev is a writer, poet, former president of the Belarus PEN Centre, and the opposition Tell the Truth party's candidate in the 2010 presidential elections. He was arrested on 19 December 2010 and held for a month in a KGB detention centre, during which time he was severely beaten and denied adequate medical services (in Belarus the security services are still called the KGB). Although the charges against him have been downgraded from 'organisation of mass riots' to 'preparation of activities designed to disturb the public order', Neklyaev still faces up to three years in prison if convicted. His trial is due to start on 5 May 2011.

Irina Khalip is a journalist for the Russian Novaya Gazeta and wife of opposition presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov (still in detention). On 19 December 2010 she was arrested and severely beaten by the police. She was held in isolation by the KGB for one month and charged with 'organising and participating in mass disorder.' Like Neklyaev, she was placed under strict house arrest in January 2011. Her house arrest is due to end on 13 May 2011; however, as yet no date has been set for her trial. She has been denied access to the internet, telephone and newspapers. Shortly after her arrest, the authorities attempted to take her son from the family and place him in state custody.

Natalia Radzina is a journalist for the pro-democracy news website Charter 97. She was arrested alongside all the staff and volunteers at the website on 19 December 2010 and charged with 'organising and participating in mass disorder'. On 31 March 2011 she was summoned to the State Security Committee to take part in investigative actions related to her case. Radzina is believed to have fled the country.

Pavel Severinets is an opposition activist, author of several books, and a member of Belarus PEN. He was arrested on 19 December 2010 and charged under Article 293 of the Criminal Code of Belarus ('Organisation of riots'). As of 26 April 2011 he remains under arrest although it is not clear if the charges against him have been changed.

Aleksandr Fiaduta is an author, literary critic and member of Belarus PEN, as well as a member of the Tell the Truth party. He was arrested on 19 December 2010 and was charged with 'organisation of riots'. As with Neklyaev, the charges against him have subsequently been downgraded to 'preparation of activities that break public order'. However, he still faces up to three years in prison if convicted. His trial is due to start on 5 May 2011.

Dimitri Bondarenko, is a journalist at Charter 97. He is charged with 'preparation of activities that break public order' and his trial began on 24 April 2011. Bondarenko has reportedly admitted to participation in the demonstrations in December, but has denied the other charges brought against him.

For previous RAN alerts about Belarus, please click here.

The above writers and journalists have all been declared prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International. For a full list of Belarusian prisoners of conscience please click here.

For a report about attacks on the press in Belarus in 2010, please click here.

Messages of Support

Some of these writers and journalists are not receiving mail, but messages of support for all six of them and their families can be sent to the PEN Centre in Belarus:

Belarus PEN
Post box 218, 220050,
Minsk, Belarus

(messages will be passed on to the families)

Messages to the following detainees can be sent to the same prison address at:
Post box 8, 220050,
Minsk Belarus

Pavel Severinets
Севярынец Павел Канстанцінавіч (name in Russian Cyrillic)

Aleksandr Fiaduta
Фядута Аляксандр Іосіфавіч

Dimitri Bondarenko
Бандарэнка Дзмітры Яўгеньевіч

TAKE ACTION

Appeals should be sent to the Belarusian authorities:

- Calling for the lifting of the severe restrictions placed on the activities of Vladimir Neklyaev, Irina Khalip, Pavel Severinets, Aleksandr Fiaduta and Dimitri Bondarenko;
- Condemning the arrest and ill-treatment of human rights activists and journalists;
- Calling for an end to the persecution of press and media outlets by the Belarusian authorities;
- Urging that all journalists and human rights activists be freed immediately and for the dismissal of politically-motivated criminal cases.

Government address
President of the Republic of Belarus
Alyaksandr G. Lukashenka
Karl Marx Str. 38
220016 g. Minsk
Belarus
Fax: 375 172 26 06 10 or 375 172 22 38 72
Email: pres@president.gov.by

Please note: there have been reports that the President's email address is not working, so please consider sending your appeals via the Belarusian government website.

Similar appeals should be sent to the Belarusian Embassy in your own country:

His Excellency Dr. Aleksandr Mikhnevich
Embassy of the Republic of Belarus
6 Kensington Court
London
W8 5DL
Fax: 020 7361 0005
Email: uk@belembassy.org
Website: click here to visit.

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