Human rights defenders: 370 political prisoners in Belarus

Over the two past days, another seven persons have been added to the list of political prisoners in Belarus, HRC Viasna reports. As of today, their number in Belarus reaches 370.

On May 5, human rights watchdogs recognised Mikhail Firaha, Vyachaslau Papou, Vital Shytsikau, Valyantsin Kolb, Vadzim Chapyalevich, Ihar Harchanyuk as political prisoners In response to their pre-trial detention, indictment and sentencing under Article 342-1 of the Criminal Code (group actions grossly violating public order) and under Art. 293-2 (mass riots).

On Thursday, 19-year-old chemistry student Artsyom Bayarski, who was detained by the police on April 18, after serving 25 days of arrest for participating in a peaceful assembly, has also been declared a prisoner of conscience. He was charged under Art. 361-1 of the Criminal Code (creation of an extremist formation). Bayarski was taken into custody in pre-trial prison Nr 1 in Minsk. As reported earlier, infamous Belarusian propagandist Ryhor Azaronak posted a video that showed Artsyom’s confessing to administering a public group on social media. On April 19, the arrestee told his lawyer that the police officers repeatedly hit him on the back and buttocks with truncheons during the detention in late March in order to make him appear in the video.

The human rights activists assessed the persecution of the above mentioned Belarusians as politically motivated, as it was related ‘solely to their exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly and expression’. The Belarusian human rights community calls on the Belarusian authorities to immediately release all political prisoners as well as to drop criminal charges against them.

Belarusian political prisoners color-coded