Jailed journo Iryna Slaunikava: ‘They won’t see me giving up’

Novy Chas editor Nasta Rubanava received a letter from imprisoned journalist Iryna Slaunikava, she said on Facebook.

In the letter, Iryna writes that she was ‘appointed responsible for the good mood’ in the so called ‘room’, i.e. the cell she is being kept in the pre-trial detention centre Nr 1 on Valadarski Street.

Sometimes I just say I am on sabbatical. Perhaps, it is not so bad: I was run off my feet a bit [before the arrest], but bang – and I have to live in concordance with [prison] timetable. Don’t worry about me: my psycho-emotional state is normal, my so-called physical condition can be described with the words ‘They [enemies] won’t see me giving up,” the journalist stressed.

Iryna Slaunikava, a former Belsat TV representative in Belarus, and her husband Alyaksandr Loyka were detained on the night of October 30 upon their arrival at Minsk Airport. Then they were taken to the detention facility on Akrestsin Street.

On November 1, they were charged under Art. 19.11 of the Code of Administrative Offences over ‘distributing materials listed as ‘extremist’ on Facebook’ and ‘possessing extremist materials on three counts: in years of 2017, 2018 and 2019 for the purpose of their demonstration’ (in fact, what is meant here is the Facebook links to articles). Judge Maksim Trusevich sentenced Iryna Slaunikava and Alyaksandr Loyka to 15 days in jail each.

Belarus authorities declare Belsat ‘extremist formation’

On November 3, the Belarusian Interior Ministry recognised ‘the citizens united with the help of Belsat Internet resources’ as an extremist formation and banned them from ‘conducting their activity in the Republic of Belarus’. On November 4, a number of female prisoners in the notorious detention centre were reported to have launched a hunger strike in protest against the harsh conditions of confinement. Iryna was among them.

On November 14, their 15-day arrest ended; however, the married couple was not released, but re-detained. A day later, Iryna Slaunikava and Alyaksandr Loyka stood trial in Pershamayski district court of Minsk for the second time and got another 15-day term each.

On November 26, Iryna Slaunikava became a suspect under Article 342 of the Criminal Code (‘organisation and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order or active participation in them’); she was transferred to pre-trial detention centre Nr 1. The Belarusian human rights community listed Iryna as a political prisoner and demanded her release.

Female detainees treated inhumanly: What we know about ‘hungerstriking’ cell in Akrestsin jail