Prison authorities exert pressure upon convicts in ‘students case’ to make them appeal for pardon

Twelve convicts involved in the so called students case are being forced to file a pardon petition, the Belarusian Students’ Association reports.

Verdict in students case. Photo:

To make them do that, the prison authorities create unbearable conditions for them: the political prisoners are threatened with deprivation of meetingd and calls; letters are not given to them; they are barred from contacting other convicts; additional checks are carried out; pressure on them has been stepped up.

Alana Hebremaryam, Tatsyana Yakelchyk, Viktoryia Hrankovskaya, Kasya Budzko, Yana Arabeyka, Anastasiya Bulybenka, Kseniya Syramalot, Volha Filatchankava and Maryia Kalenik were placed in the women’s colony in Homiel. Yahor Kanetski was transferred to colony Vitsba-3 in Vitsebsk region. Illya Trakhtenberg – to Mahiliou colony Nr 15, Hleb Fitsner – to Shklou colony Nr 17.

On 1 September 2020, Belarus’ official Knowledge Day, lots of students took to the streets to protest against vote rigging and the authorities’ harsh response to dissidence. OMON special forces and plainclothed policemen detained young people across the country. The students’ protests continued in the autumn of 2020. On October 26-27, i.e. during the days of the People’s Ultimatum announced by Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the most massive student protests were held in Belarusian universities. On November 12, the detentions began, the homes of members of the Belarusian Students’ Association and the organisation’s office were searched.

Better than under Rákosi, worse than under Jaruzelski: What can repressions in Belarus be compared to?

As part of the students’ case, the accusations were brought against 12 persons. They were charged under Art. 17-2 and Art. 342-1 of the Criminal Code (the latter is ‘organisation of actions that grossly violate public order’).

According to the Belarusian Investigative Committee, they were coordinators at the local level, they posted on special Telegram channels, called for participation in protests, produced and distributed leaflets, led the participants, engaged in their preparation and training, reported on the movement of law enforcement officers. The protests disrupted the educational process and the normal way of universities’ work, because young people blocked corridors and stairways, shouted loudly, whistled, chanted slogans and sang songs, the authorities say.

Riot police disperse Minskers expressing solidarity with defendants in students’ case. At least 14 persons detained

In July 2021, Savetski district court of Minsk announced guilty verdicts in the case. Judge Maryna Fyodarava took heed of the demands by prosecutors Anastasiya Malika and Raman Chabatarou and imposed the following sentences on the twelve defendants:

  • 2 years of imprisonment in a minimum-security penal colony for student Hleb Fitsner (he is the only one who pleaded guilty);
  • 2.5 years of imprisonment in a minimum-security penal colony for students Kseniya Syramalot, Kasya Budzko,Yana Arabeyka, Yahor Kanetski, Illya Trakhtenberg, Viktoryia Hrankouskaya, Anastasiya Bulybenka, Maryia Kalenik, Tatsyana Yakelchyk, university lecturer Volha Filatchankava, as well as Alana Hebremaryam, a Coordination Council member and Tsikhanouskaya’s representative on youth and student affairs.

As reported earlier, over the past year, pro-Lukashenka activist Yury Vaskrasenski sent a lot of letters to political prisoners, urging them to ask the Belarusian strongman for clemency. In the summer of 2020, Vaskrasenski was a member of the initiative group for collecting signatures for the wannabe presidential candidate Viktar Babaryka. Amid post-election protests, he was arrested; however, in October, Vaskrasenski was released from custody the next day after Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s visit to the KGB pre-trial detention centre. Soon after the release, Vaskrasenski changed sides and became a vocal supporter of Lukashenka. The regime has been using Vaskrasenski as an example of a civic leader whose activity is ‘constructive’.

Belarusian authorities use pardons to save face, human rights defender claims