On Tuesday, the Belarusian human rights community has recognised Syarhei Krupenich and Anastasiya Krupenich-Kandratsiyeva, a young couple from Minsk, as political prisoners.
Husband and wife, who are currently behind bars, have been repeatedly tried for swapping stories from Telegram channels in their personal correspondence online. According to the authorities’ version, some pieces of the content sent were copied from ‘extremist’ channels.
Since July, officers of Leninski district department of internal affairs have been drawn numerous protocols on them for ‘distribution of information products that contain calls to extremist activities or promote such activities (Art. 19.11 of the Code of Administrative Offences), which has led to the Krupenich family’s repeatedly being tried and jailed. In fact, the only fault of husband and wife was exchanging information from Telegram channels which the Belarusian authorities consider as ‘extremist’ in private (!) messages. On August 26, they were sentenced for 15 days each; but after serving their terms, Syarhei and Anastasiya failed to go at large – new protocols under the same Article 19.11 were made against them. In September and October, the situation repeated itself several times, and the defendants got additional 13-14-15-day terms.
In the course of one of the trials, Anastasiya said that she did not know that those channels were considered as ‘extremist’ and that one should not have sent the information provided by them even in private messages. Syarhei promised that he would never be reading Telegram channels again.
To date, Leninski district court judges have punished Syarhei Krupenich and Anastasiya Krupenich-Kandratsiyeva with nearly 100 days of arrest each.
“It should be noted that domestic legislation on countering extremism is arbitrarily used by the Belarusian authorities in order to combat dissent and freedom of expression, which is unacceptable in a democratic society, since it pursues other goals than the admissible restrictions on the right to freedom of expression recognized by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The authorities have repeatedly used repeated sentencing in administrative trials for the purpose of politically motivated pressure,” the statement by human rights activists reads.
Among other things, seven human rights watchdogs urge the Belarusian authorities to reverse all court rulings issued against Syarhei Krupenich and Anastasiya Krupenich-Kandratsiyeva and close all current administrative proceedings against them; put an end to repression against dissidents and participants in peaceful assemblies; immediately release all political prisoners and end political repression in the country.
As of today, there are 800 names on the list of political prisoners in Belarus.