We are delighted to see Leanid free, but he should not have been behind bars in the first place. Defending human rights is not a crime.

Alexander Sjödin, Human Rights House Foundation

On January 5 2021, police raided the civil and political community centre where Viasna’s office was located. On January 18, police detained Leanid Sudalenka as part of a criminal case initiated under Art. 342 of the Belarusian Criminal Code (group actions that grossly violate public order). On the same evening, Sudalenka’s assistant and Viasna’s volunteer Maryia Tarasenka was detained and her house was also searched. Tarasenka was later released on 21 January 2021.

He knew that he would be arrested, but Leanid decided to stay and to work with the victims of repression until the last day.

Andrej Stryzhak, human rights defender, co-founder of By_Help and BYSOL.

On November 3 2021, Sudalenka was sentenced to three years of imprisonment in a general-security penal colony. On January 14, 2022, judge Mikalai Maratayeu of the Homieĺ Regional Court turned down Sudalenka’s appeal, confirming the prison term. On January 26, 2022, Leanid Sudalenka was transferred to penal colony No. 3 near Viciebsk.

Sudalenka was released on 21 July 2023 after serving two and half years. On the day of his release, Viasna reported almost 1500 political prisoners in Belarus. Among them are Sudalenka’s Viasna colleagues Ales Bialiatski, Andrei Chapiuk, Uladzimir Labkovich, Valiantsin Stefanovich, and Marfa Rabkova.

Leanid Sudalenka is a human rights activist, head of the HomieÍ branch of the Human Rights Centre Viasna, with 20 years of experience helping citizens affected by human rights violations. Sudalenka has assisted in the preparation and submission of numerous individual appeals to the UN Human Rights Committee against Belarus.

Throughout 2020, Sudalenka provided legal assistance in challenging the rulings issued by the court for participation in “unauthorised rallies” taking place in HomieÍ after the 2020 presidential elections.

Top photo: Leanid Sudalenka pictured following his released from prison on 21 July 2023.

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