Hrodna journalist Andrzej Poczobut gets COVID-19 behind bars

Jailed journalist and activist Andrzej Poczobut has contracted coronavirus infection, the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) reports.

He managed to pass this information from the remand prison in Zhodzina with the help of fellow prisoners.

As reported earlier, the political prisoner was allegedly deprived of necessary medicines behind bars. Andrzej asked to hand medicines over to him, wife Aksana Poczobut said. On May 27, the defence lawyer brought them to the pre-trial detention centre. However, on May 31, the man resubmitted his request, which means that he hardly received them. Aksana is worried about Andrzej because he has heart issues: the cardiac rhythm was wrong, so the medicines were vital.

Andrzej Poczobut is one of five arrested leaders of the Polish minority; the Belarusian security services apprehended them as part of the so-called Polish case. On June 2, Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that three Polish minority activists from Belarus – Irena Biernacka, Maria Tiszkowska and Anna Paniszewa – arrived in Poland on May 25 ‘as a result of efforts by Polish diplomatic and consular services’. According to our information, the Belarusian authorities made the three women’s return to the country impossible by imposing travel restrictions on them before taking the arrestees to the Belarusian-Polish border.

Earlier, Belsat TV Director Agnieszka Romaszewska-Guzy got information that Andrzej Poczobut was offered to be deported from the country, but he flatly refused. In the letters to his wife, the journalist says that he will come through everything that the future holds for him.

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This spring, the Belarusian Prosecutor General’s Office initiated a criminal case against Andżelika Borys, Chairperson of the Union of Poles in Belarus, and other members of the organisation.

They are charged under Art. 130-3 of the Criminal Code (‘deliberate actions aimed at inciting national and religious hatred according to national, religious, language, other social affiliation, as well as through justifying Nazism, which were committed by a group of persons’). According to them, the Polish activists’ recent aсtivity, i.e. holding some events, is relevant to ‘the rehabilitation of Nazism and justifying the genocide of the Belarusian people’.

On March 25, homes of some members of the Union of Poles in Belarus were raided as part of the criminal case. Belarusian security officers made unexpected visits to Hrodna-based journalist Andrzej Poczobut (he was later arrested and taken to Minsk for interrogation); Maria Tiszkowska, the director of the UPB public school in Vaukavysk; Irena Biernacka, the head of the Lida branch of the Union. The police also came to the Polish public school and the headquarters of the Union of Poles in Hrodna. The search of the office lasted eight hours, from 9 am to 5 pm. Poczobut, Biernacka, Tiszkowska, Borys were taken into custody.

On March 12, Anna Paniszewa, the director of Polish School, was arrested on her way to Belarus from Poland. Shortly before the detention, Panishava posted an appeal to the public; she believes that the authorities fabricate the charges, aiming at the liquidation of the school.

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