Show case: Belarusian political prisoners ‘released’
While human rights activists in the Republic of Belarus are sounding the alarm about “the second wave of repressions”, on the eve of the EU decision about possible sanctions, the authorities went ahead and changed a form of pre-trial detention for five political prisoners who had previously been kept in the KGB jail (including presidential rival Niakliayeu, right). However, the remaining hostages of the regime are still in prison.
Monday, 31 January 2011, by Belarusian HRH based on naviny.by, nn.by, spring96.org
On 27 January the leader of the initiative group for Andrei Sannikau Uladzimir Kobets was let go on his own recognizance. A day later Natallia Radzina, the editor of "Charter 97," was also released on the same condition. And in the evening on 29 January the faiths of ex-presidential candidate Uladzimir Niakliayeu, Sannikau’s wife Iryna Khalip and Niakliayeu’s representative Siarhei Vazniak were decided in a similar vein.
Niaklyaeu and Khalip are under house arrest with police stationed at their residences. They are not allowed to approach doors and windows of their apartments as well as use telephones and Internet. Vazniak is barred from leaving the country and communicating with journalists.
Dozens of others still remain in jail including three ex-presidential candidates: Andrei Sannikau, Mikola Statkevich and Ales Mikhalevich. 37 people are charged with staging and instigating mass riots; over all more than 50 are being investigated in this case.
In his recent interview the country’s police chief said that investigators would start transferring the case to courts in early February.
It is hardly a coincidence that people were released from the KGB prison just before the EU MFA Council meeting, which were to decide whether to impose strict sanctions on the Belarusian authorities.
Journalist Natallia Radzina is now in Kobryn (West Belarus), her home town. As the release condition she is not allowed to leave the city. Shortly after being freed she gave an interview to Naviny.by news resource:
“Changing the pre-trial detention for me, Khalip, and Niaklyaeu is not the same as being free. It is not even a half-measure. I have somewhat more liberty. But Khalip and Niaklyaeu cannot even talk what happened to them.
It is some sort of a trading scheme well refined during the Lukashenka tenure. The regime opponents were first arrested and later used as collateral. Europe threatened with sanctions and people were released on some conditions. That was repeated over and over again. Obviously, there is a protest mood in the country. People are fighting back and there are and will be new political prisoners.
A quasi-release is a good term to describe what happened to me and others. All our relative and close friends are very afraid that we would be arrested again; I cannot ignore such a possibility. If the authorities’ steps influence Europe somehow it will be a betrayal of all of us, of all Belarusians who believe in something better, in Europe, its solidarity; it will be a betrayal of freedom and democracy, to achieve which many people struggle and get jailed".
It is now known that the EU was not impressed by Minsk's half-measures: EU member states' foreign ministers agreed in Brussels upon visa ban against some one and a half hundred regime officials yesterday.
In jail like in hell
The Tovarišč (Comrade) newspaper editor-in-chief and one of the left-wing Just World party leaders Siarhei Vazniak called KGB jail conditions “very harsh” in his recent in interview to Niša Niva.
He was the Uladzimir Niakliayeu representative at the 2010 presidential election and was arrested along with 36 others for allegedly organising the mass riots in Minsk on 19 December.
Late in the evening 29 January he was let go from the KGB prison, where he had spent 41 days, on a condition that he cannot leave the country.
“I am still a suspect in the mass riot case. I cannot leave the country. I have to ask a permission from investigators to travel beyond the Minsk city limits. They have kept my passport.” Mr Vazniak explained that he can give interviews but has signed a discretion act and may not comment on any criminal proceedings or disclose information about the case.
From his words, first two weeks he was with six other people in a cell meant only for two inmates; the rest of his time he had to share a cell with 5 others.
“It was not deliberate, not against me in particular. The KGB detention facility was overcrowded. Everyone suffered equally. It is not right that in the 21st century people, whose guilt is not proven yet, have to be kept in such conditions,” Mr Vazniak shared.
“My health was all right. I read a lot of books. And I made one philosophical observation – to understand all pleasures of the heaven one has to, at least for a while, see what hell is like.”
The second wave of repressions
Moving Niakliayeu and Khalip from jail cells into the comfort of their homes, in principle, does not change anything. They are still under arrest and they are still suspects.
Many others, who are under investigation in this case, are in the similar situation although they may not be technically incarcerated. But the majority, despite the international outcry, remains in the KGB prison. It is highly plausible that there will be more suspects and prisoners, as law enforcement agencies are rather zealous to follow through on orders from the very top of the Belarusian political system.
Forced searches, equipment seizures, and detentions are on the high rise in Belarus. The 19 December protesters are being expelled from universities and fired from jobs under various pretexts. This is what HR defenders call the second wave of repressions.
Belarusian HRH based on naviny.by, nn.by, spring96.org
End of "liberalization" in Belarus
Belarus flooded with political repression
Treatment of journalists in Belarus resembles torture
Norway: release political prisoners in Belarus!
Detentions in Belarus: inhuman and degrading treatment
Detentions in Belarus: inhuman and degrading treatment
KGB keeps searching flats of Students’ Council activists
UCP activist Korban detained again
Minsk court convicts participants of yesterday’s picket
KGB search flat of Young Democrats activist
More convicts for 19 December protest
Mikhalevich’s election agent dismissed from work