A political prisoner died in the custody of a Belarusian colony; reasons why the authorities are persecuting TUT.BY; 37 OSCE participating States issue a statement on Belarus
21 May 2021 | Voice of Belarus
A political prisoner dies in Belarusian colony
Political prisoner Vitold Ashurak died in the Shklou colony. The preliminary cause of death is cardiac arrest. He has not been sending any correspondence for the past two weeks. In one of his last letters, he said that in the colony they marked political prisoners’ clothes with yellow tags.
Vitold Ashurak was 50 years old. Member of the Belarusian Popular Front, regional coordinator of the movement “For Freedom”, he has run for local deputies and parliament more than once, raising environmental issues. Together with his comrades-in-arms, he honored the places of the insurgents of Kalinowsky. In January 2021, he was sentenced to five years in prison. He was found guilty of participating in group actions that grossly violate public order (part 1 of Art. 342 of the Criminal Code) and violence against a police officer (Art. 364 CC). The Supreme Court of Belarus upheld the decision on 31 October. “I didn’t kill anyone, I didn’t deceive anyone, I didn’t steal anything. I did as my conscience demanded,” his friends recall Vitold’s words.
Tax evasion or political character – what the authorities are prosecuting TUT.BY for
Three days after the TUT.BY employees had been detained, it became known that they were the suspects and would be held in the pre-trial detention facility No 1 on Valadarskaha street. It is not known what they are accused of, but authorities have previously said that the portal is suspected of “tax evasion” (part 2 of the article243 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus). Among the suspects are editor-in-chief Maryna Zolatava, editor Volha Laiko, and journalist Alena Talkachova: all three of them had nothing to do with the financial and economic activities of TUT.BY. The chief accountant of “Tutbay Media” LTD, Angela Assad, was also taken into custody. The relatives do not know where exactly she is and will be kept. Director of RocketData Darya Danilava is charged under Art. 243 of the Criminal Code (tax evasion). She is in the KGB pre-trial detention center.
Although, according to the authorities, the case against TUT.BY is economic in nature, no one doubts that this is political persecution by the authorities.
Minsk resident Tatsiana Niamkevich received 15 days in jail for a desire to express her solidarity with the editorial board of TUT.BY and went out on the street with a poster on 20 May. At the trial, the police witness stated that “the TUT.BY website is of a direct political nature,” therefore Niamkevich was expressing her political beliefs.
Jail sentences in Brest – three to five years in prison
In Brest, 13 people were found guilty and sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to five years. They were accused of participating in a mass riot accompanied by violence against security forces, pogroms, and destruction of property on the streets of the regional centre on 10 August 2020 (Article 293(2) of the Criminal Code).
There are minors among the convicts. They were sentenced to 3 years in an educational colony and taken into custody in the courtroom.
Most of the convicts did not admit their guilt.
In Brest, on 10 August 2020, during the dispersal of protests, security forces fired rubber bullets at people. About 100 people sought help at the hospital over the course of the day, 29 of whom were hospitalised, most with gunshot wounds.
37 OSCE participating States issued the statement on Belarus
The Denmark representative to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, René Dinesen, read a statement issued by 37 OSCE participating States on the situation in Belarus. The statement notes that seven months after the publication of the OSCE Moscow Mechanism, the same systemic violations and abuses continue unchanged in Belarus.
The signatories address the Lukashenko regime with the following questions:
- When will Belarusian authorities investigate reports of massive human rights violations, including reports of torture, ill-treatment, sexual violence, disappearances, and killings by security forces?
- When will the Belarusian authorities initiate criminal proceedings against the individuals guilty of human rights violations including the proceedings against the members of the Belarusian security forces?
- When will the Belarusian authorities protect victims and witnesses who courageously spoke out and reported human rights violations?
The statement was signed by Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia , Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, UK, USA, and Denmark.
Russia, Belarus’ neighbour, is not among the signatories.
The ambassador of Belarus to Germany was summoned to the Foreign Ministry of Germany
Ambassador of Belarus to Germany Dzianis Sidarenka was summoned to the German Foreign Ministry after the head of National Anti-Crisis Management, Pavel Latushka, had sent a letter to the State Secretary of the German Foreign Ministry Miguel Berger with a request to express an official position on the statement of the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Belarus Karpiankou. Karpiankou had previously said that no one would fight the opposition within the scope of the law, compared the opposition with international terrorists, and promised to destroy them wherever they were.
According to the official Berlin, Germany will firmly stand on the side of those Belarusians who are fighting for democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.
Belarus is on the verge of an escalation with the West. This is the opinion of the Polish Foreign Ministry
The Polish Foreign Ministry asked the Belarusian Foreign Ministry for clarification on the statements made by Prosecutor General Andrei Shved about the still living Nazi criminals from Poland and Lithuania who had taken part in the actions of punitive battalions during the war on the territory of Belarus. The Polish Foreign Ministry believes that Belarus is going for an aggravation of the relations with Poland and the West in order to create an image of an external enemy.