Number of political prisoners in Belarus reaches 256

Another ten persons have been added to the list updated by Belarusian human rights defenders since the summer of 2020.

On February 15, nine Belarusian human rights watchdogs issued a joint statement on the back of criminal charges brought against Alyaksandr Tseleshman, Mikita Litvinenka, Yauhen Pekach, Vyachaslau Kastsyuchyk, Syarhei Moushuk, Dzmitry Tur under Art. 293 of the Criminal Code (organising mass riots), against Arseny Sinyak, Raman Yakhin, Danila Chamadanau under Art. 342-1 (preparing group actions that grossly violate breach public order), as well as the sentencing of Alyaksandr Nurdzinau to four years of imprisonment under Art. 293-2 and Art. 342-1.

They assessed the persecution of the citizens mentioned above as politically motivated, as it is solely connected with the exercise of their freedom of peaceful assembly and expression, and recognised them as political prisoners.

“The meetings were peaceful and did not pose a threat to national or public security. Despite this, the demonstrators were attacked by special units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs who used disproportionate violence, riot gear and non-lethal weapons. For the first time in the history of Belarus, rubber bullets and water cannons were used against peaceful demonstrators. A particularly large amount of damage was inflicted by the use of stun grenades,” the statement reads.

The Belarusian human rights community calls on the authorities to immediately release all the political prisoners and stop their criminal prosecution. As of 15 February, 256 persons have been recognised as prisoners of conscience in Belarus.

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