Rosemary Thomas, British Ambassador in Minsk met relatives of political prisoners in the British embassy. "It is difficult to imagine that we are talking about events taking place in a European country nowadays”, she commented on the meeting. According to the press service of the British embassy in their correspondence with BelaPan the women whose relatives are accused of participation in the mass disorders in Minsk on December 19, 2010 described their efforts to make the authorities fulfill the prisoners’ rights. Thomas further expressed her anxiety in connection with the situation of a 26-year-old prisoner Dzmitry Bulanau, who could not receive a necessary medical treatment and whose health is deteriorating now. That fact would contradict to Belarus’ international commitments. The Ambassador also stressed that the British government considered the accusation of Dzmitry Dashkevich and Edward Lobau of hooliganism to be politically motivated. (18. & 19.03.2011)
Former presidential candidates Dzmitry Us and Mikalai Statkevich have officially been charged under Par. 1 Art. 293 of the Criminal Code (organization of mass riots). This information was published by www.interfax.by, who quoted Kanstantsin Shalkevich, a spokesperson of the minister of the interior. Another person involved in the case – Aliaksandr Klaskouski – is said to be facing charges for insulting a representative of authority (Art. 382 of the CC) and usurpation of power or official title (Art. 369 of the CC), alongside with earlier charges under Par. 1 and 2 of Art. 293 (participation and organization of mass riots). (18.03.2011)
Ales Kaputski, a human rights defender of Maldechna, was summoned to local tax inspection. According to him the inspection is caused by his civil activity. Earlier he has been dismissed from his job in a local private enterprise. Furthermore, on Christmas Day 2010 his home was searched by the police, who sized several PCs and a photo camera. (21.03.2011)
Minsk Maskouski District Court meanwhile has ended the lawsuit against Zmitser Dashkevich and Eduard Lobau due to malicious hooliganism. Several witnesses were heard about the incident concerned, who either stated that they were not able to identify anybody involved, that their initial statement had been confused, that it could not be verified who exactly was beating another person or that the accused were obviously obliged to defend themselves. The defense lawyers applied for several investigative measures to prove the innocence of the accused after, however all were refused by the judge. The final statements of the parties were divergent, either stating that the accused’ guilt could be established or that a proper veryfing of the guilt did not take place. Finally Zmister Dashkevich was convicted to imprisonment of two years and Eduard Lobau was convicted to imprisonment in a high-security colony of four years. During the trial, the youth activists Zmitser Khvedaruk, Andrus Tychyna and Illia Shyla, as well as another unidentified teenager, were detained outside the court building while they were holdng portraits of the two activits standing at their trial. (23.03.-24.03.2011).
The Russian journalist Aleksandr Lashmankin has been sentenced to three days in jail. As a reaction to the sentence Lashmankin announced to go on hunger strike in order to protest against his arrest. He had been ordered off a train and arrested by two police officers early on Thursday. The police claimed to have received information from an anonymous source that he had narcotic drugs on him. According to the police, Lashmankin was "waving his hands and speaking obscenities" during the arrest. He was reportedly charged with disorderly conduct because of the behavior. Lashmankin is known to focus his reporting on human rights. (24.03.2011)
The news center Viasna has published a cronicle of human rights violations in Belarus in January 2011. It is available under http://www.spring96.org/en/news/41922 (24.03.2011).
Previous to the Freedom Day on 25 March several districts and cities have forbidden pickets of solidarity with political prisoners. Reasons stated were mostly failures in the registration of the pickets, e.g. missing medical aid. Furthermore, several activists in Homel were forced to sign written obligations not to participate in Freedom Day celebartions. During the actual Freedom Day the police blocked a gathering point in Minsk, stating that a bomb had been found. Journalists were forbidden to take pictures of the event. Later in the day civilly clothed KGB agents supported the police in ending several pickets in Minsk. Numerous activists were detained during this event, among them Viktar Ivashkevich, coordinator of the European Belarus campaign, the youth activists Vika Ladzis, Ivan Shyla and Anrei Tychyna and Tasiana Kim, mother of former political prisoner Andrei Kim. The total number of detained persons is not yet confirmed. (21.-25.03.2011)
Charter 97: http://www.charter97.org/en/news/
Democratic Belarus: http://www.democraticbelarus.eu/