Criminal case opened against famous Belarusian swimmer over criticising Lukashenka regime

Alyaksandra Herasimenia. Photo: Yana Prakopchyk / Belsat

Criminal proceeding has been launched against Alyaksandra Herasimenia and Alyaksandr Apeykin, the leaders of the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation (BSSF), the Belarusian Investigative Committee reports.

The authorities accuse Herasimenia and Apeykin of ‘spreading deliberately false information about the course and results of the election campaign, about events in the social, economic, political, cultural spheres of the society’s life’.

“On the Internet and in the mass media, [they] made appeals to foreign states and international organisations to take action aimed at harming the national security of the Republic of Belarus. In particular, under the pressure of the members of the above-mentioned association, a number of major sports events have been moved from Belarus,” Friday’s press release reads.

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The agency claims that Herasimenia’s and Apeykin’s activity resulted in ‘inflicting significant reputational and financial damage on the state, tearing down the country’s prestige on the international and political arena, discrediting the leadership of both the sports sector and the state’.

The two athletes have been charged with ‘calls for actions aimed at harming the national security of the Republic of Belarus which were made through media outlets or the global computer network Internet’ (Part 3 of Article 361 of the Criminal Code). The maximum penalty under the article is five years of imprisonment.

On 9 August, the large-scale protests started in the country on the back of announcing the preliminary results of the 2020 presidential election; the major demands of Belarusians were Alyaksndr Lukashenka’s resignation; holding a free and fair election; releasing political prisoners; putting an end to police violence as well as bringing to justice those involved in battering and torturing peaceful demonstrators. In early March, Ivan Naskevich, the then head of the Belarusian Investigative Committee, said that the departments of the committee had opened 2,407 criminal cases of ‘extremist nature’ since August 2020. There are at least seven death cases that are linked to the post-election protests. As of today, 324 persons have been recognised as political prisoners by the Belarusian human rights community.

Several thousand detainees filed complaints against police officers’ illegal actions to the Investigative Committee. However, not a single criminal case has been initiated over the citizens’ appeals.

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