Another sad record: 801 political prisoners in Belarus

On Wednesday evening, 73 new names were added to the list of Belarusian political prisoners, HRC Viasna reports.

According to them, 136 people have been resently taken into custody for posting comments on the Internet in connection with the deaths of IT specialist Andrey Zeltsar and KGB officer Dzmitry Fedasyuk. Moreover, Henadz Mazheika, a journalist of Komsomolskaya Pravda in Belarus and the author of an article about Zeltser, was detained in Moscow and taken to Minsk. Criminal proceedings have been instituted against them under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code (‘insulting of a representative of the authorities’) and Art. 130 (‘inciting social hatred’).

Author of Komsomolskaya Pravda in Belarus not released after spending 3 days behind bars

The human rights activists stress that in a number of the above cases the actions of the accused were a consequence of numerous violations of human rights, the lack of freedom of expression, the distrust of the law enforcement system by the state. In their opinion, such distruct was caused by the authorities’ failure to investigate crimes against peaceful protesters and other victims of ill-treatment and torture, together with disappointment in the government’s ability to stop lawlessness.

Six human rights watchdogs consider the persecution and imprisonment of 73 persons (the full list is here) to be politically motivated, since they never called for committing violent acts on national, ethnic, religious grounds. Among other things, the Belarusian human rights community has called on the authorities to immediately release all political prisoners and stop political repression.

As of October 6, there are 801 political prisoners in Belarus.

Over 110 people detained in ‘Zeltsar case’

On September 28, two persons were killed on Yakubouski Street in Minsk in the course of a KGB raid – security officer Dzmitry Fedasyuk and EPAM employee Andrey Zeltsar. In accordance with the authorities’ version, Belarusian security officers were conducting a ‘special inspection of the apartments in which people involved in terrorist activities could have been’. Andrey Zeltsar resided in the flat to which plainclothed people broke into on that day. If the Investigative Committee’s statement is anything to go by, Zeltsar fired a shotgun at the visitors and injuted one of them; later, the injured died of wounds in hospital. The owner of the apartment was killed as well; his 40-year-old wife was arrested on suspicion of complicity in the murder of a KGB officer.

The Belarusian special services have been using the tragedy on Yakubouski Street as a pretext for stepping up reprisals: during last week’s large-scale operation, they held over 100 persons throughout the country. On September 29-30, detentions took place in Minsk, Homiel, Vitsebsk, Mahiliou, other cities and towns of Belarus. They were detained under criminal articles 369 (‘Insulting a representative of the authorities’) and 130 (‘Inciting social hatred’). Human rights activists believe that the new wave of repression is connected to the people’s discussing the story of Zeltsar and Fedasyuk and ‘leaving offensive comments on social media platforms’. It would be good if the authorities could kill up to 100 persons (i.e. protesters or dissidents) in retaliation for one dead KGB officer, pro-Lukashenka top brass officer Aleh Belakoneu said when attending the farewell ceremony for Fedasyuk.

From Autukhovich to Zeltsar: Belarusians labelled as ‘terrorists’ by Lukashenka regime