Natallia Herrsche in the court in Minsk. (Photo: Viasna)

On Monday, a court in Minsk has sentenced Swiss-Belarusian dual citizen Natallia Herrsche to 2 years and 6 months in prison. The 51 year old woman has been imprisoned  already since 19 September for taking part in a peaceful women’s rally in Belarus. Libereco criticizes the arbitrariness of the Lukashenko regime and calls on the entire Swiss Federal Council to take strict measures against the Belarusian government.

Natallia Herrsche has been in prison in Belarus since 19 September for taking part in a peaceful rally. During her violent arrest, she pulled the mask off the face of a security guard who was not identified as such, in mortal fear, and scratched him. The second day of the trial and the sentencing took place in Minsk on Monday, 7 December. Natallia Hersche was sentenced to 2 years and 6 months imprisonment for her unintentional reaction at her arrest.

Given the fact that Natallia Hersche was arbitrarily detained and tried, as were more than 150 other political prisoners in Belarus, it was feared that the sentence would be equally arbitrary.

Libereco approached Swiss Federal Council

Libereco had called on Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis prior to the trial to take more decisive action against the Belarusian regime and to urge Lukashenka directly to release the Swiss citizen. Libereco submitted a petition with 9500 signatures to the FDFA calling for greater commitment on the part of the Swiss Foreign Minister to secure the release of Natallia Hersche.

Lars Bünger, President of Libereco, said regarding the sentencing of Natallia Hersche: “We are shocked by today’s verdict. The sentence of Natallia Hersche is a symbol of the criminal nature of the Lukashenka regime. For months, the dictator’s regime has used massive violence against peaceful demonstrators: Torture, abuse and rape – the regime does not even shy away from political murder. In this environment, Belarus has long been unable to provide fair trials. We consider Natallia Hersche a political prisoner and hostage of the Lukashenka regime. We now expect Foreign Minister Cassis and President Sommaruga to react vigorously against the Lukashenka regime. As long as Natallia Hersche is held hostage in Belarus, the Belarusian Ambassador in Switzerland should be expelled from our country. The Federal Council as a whole should also immediately impose sanctions on Lukashenka personally and freeze all accounts attributable to him, his family and associates in Switzerland.”