Human rights defenders continue to analyze criminal cases for compliance with the definition of “political prisoner.”
On July 5, the community of Belarusian human rights organizations issued a statement recognizing five more people as political prisoners. Four of them are accused by the authorities of “group actions, flagrantly violating public order” (Part 1 Article 342 of the Criminal Code): Maksim Zharau, Ilya Tolkach, Alyaksandr Ivulin, and underage Daniil Kalesnikau. Another one, Ruslan Volkau, is accused of “mass rioting.”
Kalesnikau was sentenced to 1 year and 3 months in a colony for standing in a hitch with his father on the night of August 9-10, 2020, in Zhlobin. Zharau was sentenced to 2 years of freedom restriction for roundhouse dance at the Brest protests. Tolkach was sentenced to 3 years of freedom restriction for participating in Minsk protests on the night after the 2020 election. Volkau and Ivulin await trial in the pre-trial detention center.
Human rights activists say that gatherings of citizens were peaceful and posed no threat to either national or public security. Despite this, the protesters were attacked by special forces of the Interior Ministry with disproportionate use of physical force, non-lethals and firearms.
Human defense activists demand that Belarusian authorities release from custody both these five and all political prisoners and those detained in connection with the freedom of peaceful assembly in the post-election period and to stop political repression against citizens.
Currently, 534 people have been recognized as political prisoners in Belarus, but human rights activists continue to analyze criminal cases for compliance with the definition “political prisoner.”