Swiss-Belarusian dual citizen imprisoned in Belarus for one month – vigil on her birthday in Zurich – National Councillor Barbara Gysi demands immediate release

Natallia Hersche

Natallia Hersche, Swiss-Belarusian dual citizen from St. Gallen, has been in a Belarusian prison for exactly one month today. She had travelled to her former home country in September and was arrested there during a peaceful women’s rally on 19 September.

She was charged with resisting law enforcement officials by force because she allegedly took a policeman’s balaclava off when she was arrested. Natallia Hersche affirms her innocence. She faces up to 5 years imprisonment in Belarus. Since the beginning of the protests against the Lukashenka regime after the rigged presidential elections on 9 August, more than 14,000 people have been arrested nationwide.

“We must assume that Natallia Hersche, like all other political prisoners, will not receive a fair trial. We consider her detention to be arbitrary and politically motivated. In our view, it is important that she receives consular protection from Switzerland. We therefore call on the Belarusian authorities to allow the Swiss ambassador in Minsk to have immediate and regular visits to Natallia Hersche – because such a visit has not yet been permitted. Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis is also personally requested to become active. He had last met the ruler Lukashenka in Minsk in February and should now immediately follow up on this meeting, fly to Minsk and negotiate the release of Swiss citizen Natallia Hersche,” says Lars Bünger, President of Swiss section of Libereco.

Barbara Gysi

Together with the association Razam (“Together”), which has just been founded by Belarusians in Switzerland, Libereco is calling for a vigil in Zurich on Tuesday 20 October in the evening. Because this date is the 51st birthday of Natallia Hersche.

Barbara Gysi, SP National Councillor (Swiss Parliament) from the canton of St. Gallen, has taken on a symbolic prisoner’s godparenthood for her and declared: “On her birthday in particular, we will think especially of Natallia. It makes us very sad that she has to spend this day in prison. Natallia was torn completely unexpectedly and arbitrarily from her everyday life in Switzerland when she wanted to visit her former home country Belarus for a few days. She did not commit any crime but simply demonstrated peacefully for an end to the dictatorship – just as hundreds of thousands of people have done in recent weeks. I urge the Belarusian authorities to release Natallia immediately and unconditionally and allow her to return to Switzerland immediately. I also call on Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis to stand up for Natallia Hersche and her release and return to Switzerland”.