Raid on Office for Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Director under house arrest, lawyer detained

On Wednesday, the representatives of the Belarusian Investigative Committee raided the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Minsk, human rights activist Alena Tankachova said on Facebook.

In the course of the search, documents and equipment were seized.

A criminal case has been launched; Syarhei Drazdouski, the founder and director of the organisation, as well as its legal counsellor Aleh Hrableuski are suspects in it. It is still unknown under what article they are charged with. Drazdouski, who is a wheelchair user, has been placed under house arrest. Hrableuski has been detained for 72 hours, he is being held in the detention centre on Akrestsin Street.

On February 2, Syarhei Drazdouski and Aleh Hrableuski spent seven hours in the Financial Investigations Department of the State Control Committee. The two men had to hold out a long and unpleasant interrogation. Earlier, the Office found defense lawyers for several persons who had to appear before court as part of the case on ‘participating in mass riots’, for which its team is now being faulted by the authorities. According to Syarhei, the officers threatened him with imprisonment, openly calling him ‘criminal’ and ‘swindler’.

“They stripped me naked, conducted a body search, checked everything they could. They ordered me to remain undressed, sit on a chair and look only at the corner of the table,” Hrableuski wrote on the back of Tuesday’s questioning.

‘White-red-white views’: March of people with disabilities in Minsk (photo report)

It was not the first raid on the office; on January 21, law enforcers also made an unexpected visit. Then the Department of Financial Investigations said they were carrying out a check on the office staff over allegedly illegal receiving funds in the form of charitable donations and foreign aid.

It should be recalled that a number of protest actions named March of People with Disabilities took place in Minsk and other Belarusian cities In the autumn of 2020. In mid October, the first rally of such kind was held in the country: people with special needs, their families and friends joined protesting against police abuse, rigging elections, persecuting dissidents.

In late December, Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey announced limiting the activities of a number of NGOs in Belarus and reviewing their humanitarian, educational and cultural programs in the wake of the third package of sanctions imposed on Belarusian officials by the European Union.