‘Sham charges’: US Congressmen call on Belarus govt to release Ihar Losik, other political prisoners

On March 13, US Congressmen James McGovern and Christopher Smith, Co-Chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the U.S. Congress, commented on the prosecution of Belarusian blogger and journalist Ihar Losik.

They are ‘shocked and disheartened’ to hear of Ihar’s deteriorating health and morale, the politicians stress.

“We are deeply troubled by the Belarusian government’s decision to file new charges against Ihar, after having kept him behind bars and away from his young family for the past nine months. Journalism is not a crime. We condemn the brutal crackdowns and sham charges leveled at the press in Belarus for reporting on the repressive actions of the government of Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Ihar and other political prisoners must be released immediately,” the statement reads.

James McGovern and Christopher Smith urged Ihar Losik to not give up hope and to draw strength from his supporters in Belarus, the USA and around the world.

According to the recent joint statement of the human rights organisations in Belarus, 285 people are now recognised prisoners of conscience.

Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya urges political prisoners to end their hunger strikes

Last week, another charge was brought against Ihar Losik who has been behind bars since June. When Losik was informed of the new accusation, he made an attempt to cut his hands in front of the investigator and the lawyer. He also went on a ‘dry’ hunger strike, refusing food and water in protest.

Ihar Losik is known as an administrator of the popular Telegram channel Belamova which actively covered the events around the 2020 election campaign in Belarus. On June 25, his home in the town of Baranavichy was searched; the man was then arrested. He has a wife and a little daughter.

He was charged under Article 342-1 of the Criminal Code (‘organisation and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order’) and Art. 293 (‘preparation for participating in mass riots’).

Pleading not guilty and considering his criminal prosecution to be politically motivated, he went on an indefinite hunger strike ‘until all accusations were dropped or the measure of restraint was changed’. Then Losik said he had already spent half a year in prison on ‘the absurd charge’. He ‘would have had to use a teleporter’ in order to commit that crime, he stressed in his address published on Telegram. Later, however, the detention period for the political prisoner was extended by three months, until March, 25.

In late January, the imprisoned blogger decided to end hunger-striking on its 42nd day.

‘Blatant injustice’: Hunger-striking political prisoner asks EU envoys, democratic govts for help