As part of Libereco’s #WeStandBYyou solidarity campaign, Lotta Olsson (Swedish Parliament, The Moderates), Laila Naraghi (Swedish Parliament, Social Democratic Party) and Gerard Craughwell (Seanad Éireann, Independent, Ireland) are taking over godparenthood for political prisoners in Belarus.
Dzianis Khazei is a minor student who will not come of age until October 2021. He was charged with “participation in mass riots” under Article 293 of the Belarusian Criminal Code for his participation in the protests following the Belarusian presidential elections and sentenced to 3 years in a juvenile detention centre.
Lotta Olsson, Member of the Swedish Parliament, has taken on the prisoner sponsorship of Dzianis Khazei and states: “The hard dictatorship emerging in Belarus requires that we all in democratic states in Europe are up to human rights and democracy. The fact that young people want to engage in their land and democracy development are of utmost importance for not only Belarus without the whole of Europe. My commitment, I would especially like to direct Dzianis Khazei who was imprisoned for his participation in demonstrations against the undemocratic regime. Belarus deserves democratic elections and democratic development.”
Aliaksandr Kazlianka is an activist and member of the Free Trade Union in Brest. He has been imprisoned several times in the past for his participation in protests. On 2 March 2021, he was arrested and his home was searched. Charges were brought against him under Article 342 (“organising or participating in group actions grossly violating public order”) and under Article 285 (“forming or participating in a criminal organisation”) of the Belarusian Criminal Code. The first charge is reportedly related to a 2018 road blockade protesting the construction of a battery factory. Friends of Aliaksandr Kazlianka say he did not take part in that protest.
On the occasion of her taking over the godparenthood for Aliaksandr Kazlianka, Laila Naraghi, a member of the Swedish Parliament, stated the following: “I call for the immediate release of the political prisoner Aliaksandr Kazlianka, a 37 year old activist and member of the Free Trade Union based in Brest. According to the International Trade Union Confederation’s (ITUC) last annual report, Belarus is one of the ten worst countries in the whole world, for working people. Free trade unions’ and their members’ brave work for their human rights are invaluable in the struggle for democracy. In Belarus and in any country. Free trade unions, particularly, pose a special threat to dictatorships – such as the Belarussian – that falsely claim that they “represent the people”. Therefore, we will continue to gather around and shed light on those activists that are in the forefront of the fight against Lukasjenka’s criminal and violent regime. Lukasjenka, his butchers and messenger boys will – one day – finally fall and be brought to justice. I hope sooner rather than later.”
Valiantsin Kolb was charged under Article 293 of the Belarusian Criminal Code with “participating in mass riots” and sentenced to 5 years in prison. He has a disability due to heart disease and suffered a heart attack in the past. He was arrested on 24 March 2021 and had to be taken to hospital immediately after his arrest, where he spent some time in intensive care and was diagnosed with a pre-infarction. When his condition improved, he was transferred directly to prison.
Commenting on his godparenthood for Valiantsin Kolb, Irish MP Gerard Craughwell said: “I stand by Valiantsin Kolb, a political prisoner in Belarus. This man has been sentenced to serve 5 years for participating in a protest against what is regarded in most parts of the world as a rigged election in his home country of Belarus. He is guilty of no crime but was pursuing what would be regarded as a human right in any democratic country. Valiantsin suffers from a coronary condition and has suffered a coronary arrest in the past. He is in urgent need of a coronary stent operation and is not getting the medical treatment he requires. I demand Valiantsin’s immediate release and that on release he be brought to a medical centre where he can obtain the treatment he urgently needs. I stand with all in Belarus who oppose the outcome of the rigged election and call for an immediate open, fair and transparent election.”