As part of Libereco’s #WeStandBYyou solidarity campaign, Cathal Berry (Dáil Éireann, Independent, Ireland), Charlie Flanagan (Dáil Éireann, Fine Gael, Ireland) and Gabriele Bischoff (European Parliament, SPD, Germany) are taking over godparenthood for political prisoners in Belarus.
Artsiom Bayarski is a 19-year-old student from Minsk. He was detained for the first time on November 16, 2020 after the “March of Elderly People” and sentenced to 15 days in prison. The student was detained again on March 24, after riot police broke into his dormitory room and pinned Bayarski and his room-mates to the floor. He was again sentenced to a short term of detention. On March 25, a video appeared in the Telegram channel run by Ryhor Azaronak, a TV presenter known for his extreme pro-Lukashenka views, in which Artsiom confessed to adminiseting the famous Telegram channel called “My Country of Belarus”. In order to force the student appear in the video confession, police officers reportedly beat Bayarski on the back and the buttocks with truncheons. Bayarski was expected to be released on April 18. However, on April 16, the investigator called Bayarski’s parents and said that Artsiom had been detained as a suspect under Art. 361-1, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of Belarus (“creation of an extremist formation”). On April 26 he was officially charged.
On the occasion of taking over his prisoner’s godparenthood for Artsiom Bayarski, Cathal Berry, Member of the Dáil Eireann, said: “I call for the immediate release of the political prisoner Artsiom Bayarski, a 20 year old student who has been detained since last April. Several reputable human rights NGOs have reported that while in detention he was beaten by police with truncheons until he recorded a ‘confession’ that was subsequently posted on a social media channel run by a notorious pro-regime propagandist.”
Dzmitry Hopta is a resident of Homieĺ suffering from a mental disorder. He was convicted for the events of August 9 and 10, 2021 in Žlobin and charged under two articles of the Criminal Code of Belarus: Part 1 of Art. 342 (Organization or active participation in group actions that grossly violate public order) and Art. 364 (Violence or threat of violence against a police officer). He fully admitted his guilt (as advised by the court-appointed lawyer), saying that he threw a stone and ran away. On February 5, 2021, Dzmitry Hopta was sentenced to 2 years in a penal colony. On April 2, the Homieĺ Regional Court upheld the sentence.
Commenting on his godparenthood for Dzmitry Hopta, Irish MP and Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs , Charlie Flanagan said: “I call on the Belarusian authorities to immediately release the political prisoner Dzmitry Hopta, a 21 year old young man with special needs, who was sentenced to 2 years in jail. According to local human rights NGOs, Dzmitry was convicted on his own confession and the presumption of innocence did not apply during his trial. It is shocking that a vulnerable young man should be deprived of his liberty in such questionable circumstances.”
Vitaliya Bandarenka from Brest was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment under Article 293 of the Belarusian Criminal Code for “participation in mass riots” in August 2020 on May 21, 2021.
Gabriele Bischoff, Member of the European Parliament, has taken oven the the prisoner’s godparenthood for Vitaliya Bandarenka and declared: ” A year ago, elections took place in Belarus. In the aftermath, thousands of people took to the streets of Belarus, challenging the election results on the grounds of electoral fraud. The Lukashenko regime used violence against the demonstrators. During these protests, among others, 19-year-old Vitaliya Bandarenka was detained and sentenced to four years in prison. I have taken over the godparenthood for her in cooperation with Libereco and would like to show that we want to support her as well as the hundreds of other courageous political prisoners of Lukashenko and give them the necessary attention! Through their courage and perseverance in their struggle for a democratic future, we are all inspired every day. I call on President Lukashenko to immediately release all political prisoners. The oppression of the people in Belarus must end now!”