As part of Libereco’s #WeStandBYyou solidarity campaign, Erin McGreehan (Seanad Éireann, Fianna Fáil, Ireland), Seán Haughey (Dáil, Fianna Fáil, Ireland) and Jens Geier (European Parliament, SPD, Germany) take over godparenthoods for political prisoners in Belarus.
Ihar Bukas, together with his son Aleh Bukas, was accused and convicted under Article 364 of the Criminal Code of Belarus (violence against a police officer). Ihar and Aleh Bukas were detained on August 10, 2020, because they intervened in a conflict between a traffic police officer and a woman. On November 27, the father and son were convicted. Ihar Bukas was sentenced to four years in a maximum-security penal colony.
Erin McGreehan, a member of the Seanad Éirean, has taken over the godparenthood of Ihar Bukas, and declares: “I feel it is important to signal my solidarity with political prisoners like Ihar Bukas. It is deeply worrying that Ihar has had such a harsh sentence for what looks like spurious charges intended to intimidate, to silence. This is wrong. Citizens in every country should have the right to assemble to challenge decisions without fear of imprisonment. I send my best wishes to you Ihar and your son Aleh. As a Irish parliamentarian who has great faith in democracy, I hope the principles of democracy will be soon upheld and respected in Belarus.”
Dzianis Ivashyn is an investigative journalist based in Hrodna. Ivashyn is editor of the Belarusian version of the investigative website informnapalm.org. He is also a freelance reporter for the newspaper Novy Chas. He iis known for his investigative publications about Russian influence on Belarus and Syria. His latest article dealt with former officers of the Ukrainian Berkut special police force who fled Ukraine and were hired by the Belarusian riot police. Ivashyn was detained on March 12 by KGB officers and was remanded in custody for two months. On March 20, it was reported that Ivashyn had been charged under Art. 365 of the Criminal Code of Belarus, allegedly for “influencing a police officer” in order to “change the nature of his lawful activities”. Due to high temperatures Dzianis had a heart attack in his solitary confinement cell on June 20.
Séan Haughey, Member of the Irish Dáil, has taken over the godparenthood of Dzianis Ivashyn and declares: “It is an honour for me to adopt Dzinais Ivashyn. Dzinais is an outstanding investigative journalist who has exposed the workings of the Belarusian regime and its relations with the illegal activities of Berkut. Media freedom is a cornerstone of any liberal democracy and journalists are entitled to carry out their work free from fear, intimidation, and harassment. Dzinais is a political prisoner and should be released immediately from prison along with all other political prisoners in Belarus”.
Dzianis Urad is a former special liaison officer of the Armed Forces’ General Staff. According to state-owned media, on March 14, Urad photographed a secret letter from the Minister of Internal Affairs to the Minister of Defense. Urad sent a copy of the letter, which authorized the involvement of the Armed Forces in law enforcement activities, to an opposition Telegram channel. On May 14, the Supreme Court sentenced Dzianis Urad to 18 years in a medium-security penal colony, finding him guilty of high treason (Part 2 of Article 356 of the Belarusian Criminal Code). Urad was also deprived of his military rank. The trial was held behind closed doors.
Jens Geier, member of the European Parliament, hastaken over the godparenthood of Dzianis Urad. On the occasion of the godparenthood, Mr. Geier states: “The number of political prisoners in Belarus is currently at a sad high: according to the human rights organisation Viasna, there are more than 500 people in prison. One of them is 30-year-old Dzianis Urad, whom I adopted this week in cooperation with the NGO Libereco. Dzianis revealed to the oppositional Telegram channel Nexta, founded by Raman Pratasevich, that the Ministry of Interior was planning to deploy thousands of soldiers to violently put down future protests. For this courageous action, he was sentenced in camera to 18 years in prison for alleged treason. The sentence cannot be appealed. On Monday, the EU decided on further sanctions, which for the first time will also affect the business sector. This is an important step to put the regime under pressure not only politically, but also financially. Lukashenka has been fighting his own people for almost three decades. Instead of responding to their demands for fair elections, he violently suppresses the peaceful protests of the citizens and their desire for democratic self-determination. This must finally end. Dzianis and the hundreds of other political prisoners must be released immediately!”