Jailed politician Mikalai Kazlou recognised as political prisoner

The Belarusian human rights community has listed Mikalai Kazlou, Chairman of the United Civic Party of Belarus (UCPB) and a former police officer, as a political prisoner, HRC Viasna reports.

Mikalai Kazlou. Photo: Belsat

Mikalai Kazlou is also a member of the opposition Coordination Council which was set up by Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya and her associates as part of taking urgent measures to restore law and order in Belarus as well as to ensure the transfer of power in the country. Belarus’ Prosecutor General opened a criminal case over establishing the Council, naming it a ‘threat to national security’.

On December 28, the politician started serving a three-month jail term imposed on him in the summer of 2021. According to the authorities’ version, he disclosied information about the probe into the case of the Coordination Council. Mikalai Kazlou is being held in the remand prison in the town of Baranavichy.

Notably, August’s hearing took place behind closed doors. Mikalai Kazlou was found guilty under Art. 407 of the Criminal Code of Belarus (‘disclosure of information related to preliminary investigation’). Judge Tatsyana Shotsik imposed the maximum possible penalty on the UCPB leader.

In April, Mikalai Kazlou served a 15-day term of administrative arrest in the notorious detention centre on Akrestsin street in Minsk. According to him, the detainees were going through nothing but torture there.

Political activist Mikalai Kazlou says he was tortured in jail

Mikalai had repeatedly refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement after numerous interrogations by the Investigative Council as part of the ‘Coordination Council’ criminal case, which resulted in his being penalised under administrative law.

“In recent years, the prohibition of disclosing investigation details and information from the closed court sessions has been mostly used by the courts, Investigative Committee, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and KGB in order to prevent the disclosure of significant information of public interest, information about authorities’ violations and power abuse, hindering balance and equality of rights and opportunities of the defence and prosecution,” the statement reads.

Assessing information about Mikalai Kazlou’s interrogations, coercion to renounce his procedural rights and his imprisonment, six human rights watchdogs havecome to the conclusion that Mikalai Kazlou’s persecution is politically motivated, as it is related solely to his political convictions, as well as peaceful exercise of freedom of expression and access to information, in violation of the right to a fair trial.

To date, there are 969 political prisoners in Belarus.

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