Three women involved in Poles’ Union case forcibly removed from Belarus

Three of the five Belarusian Poles arrested in the so called Polish case have been ‘deported’ to Poland, Belsat TV Director Agnieszka Romaszewska-Guzy said on Twitter on Wednesday, referring to ‘unconfirmed but reliable information’.

The above mentioned persons might be Irena Biernacka, Maria Tiszkowska and Anna Paniszewa. According to Romaszewska-Guzy, the Belarusian authorities have made the three women’s return to the country impossible by imposing travel restrictions on them before taking the arrestees to the Belarusian-Polish border.

(UPD) On Wednesday afternoon, Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made a comment on the situation.

“On 25 May 2021, as a result of efforts by Polish diplomatic and consular services, three Polish minority activists from Belarus – Irena Biernacka, Maria Tiszkowska and Anna Paniszewa – arrived in Poland. The women were given the necessary support and appropriate care,” the statement reads.

This spring, the Belarusian Prosecutor General’s Office initiated a criminal case against Andżelika Borys , Chairperson of the Union of Poles in Belarus, and other members of the organisation.

They are charged under Art. 130-3 of the Criminal Code (‘deliberate actions aimed at inciting national and religious hatred according to national, religious, language, other social affiliation, as well as through justifying Nazism, which were committed by a group of persons’). According to them, the Polish activists’ recent aсtivity, i.e. holding some events, is relevant to ‘the rehabilitation of Nazism and justifying the genocide of the Belarusian people’.

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On March 25, homes of some members of the Union of Poles in Belarus were raided as part of the criminal case. Belarusian security officers made unexpected visits to Hrodna-based journalist and UPB member Andrzej Poczobut (he was later arrested and taken to Minsk for interrogation); Maria Tiszkowska, the director of the UPB public school in Vaukavysk; Irena Biernacka, the head of the Lida branch of the Union. The police also came to the Polish public school and the headquarters of the Union of Poles in Hrodna. The search of the office lasted eight hours, from 9 am to 5 pm. A day before, the Belarusian authorities sentenced Andżelika Borys to 15 days of administrative arrest.

In early March, a diplomatic conflict broke out between Warsaw and Minsk over this year’s commemorating the so called Cursed Soldiers by a number of Polish organisations in Belarus. This year’s commemorating the so called Cursed Soldiers by Polish organisations in Belarus resulted in the country’s Foreign Ministry’s expelling Jerzy Timofiejuk, a Polish consul in Brest, who showed up at the event. A bit later, Minsk also demanded the removal of Jarosław Książek, a Polish consul in Hrodna. The expulsion prompted retaliatory diplomatic steps – two Belarusian consuls were asked to leave Poland.

On March 11, Alyaksandr N., one of the co-founders of the Brest-based organisation Polish School, was detained on the back of the criminal case launched over the celebration of Cursed Soldiers’ Day in Brest in late February. According to the Belarusian side, a group of persons ‘committed deliberate actions aimed at justifying Nazism and inciting national hatred’. On March 12, Anna Paniszewa, the director of Polish School, was detained on her way to Belarus from Poland, then she was taken into custody as part of the above-mentioned case. Shortly before the detention, Panishava posted an appeal to the public; she believes that the authorities fabricate the charges, aiming at the liquidation of the school.

The Belarusian human rights community recognised Borys, Poczobut, Tiszkowszka, Biernacka, Paniszewa as political prisoners. Poland’s President Andrzej Duda is seeking international support to protect the persecuted Poles in Belarus.

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