On Friday morning, security forces came for a number of Belarusian media workers contributing to Belsat.
The officers searched the homes of journalists Halina Abakunchyk (Minsk), Yauhen Merkis (Homiel), Ihar Ilyash (Minsk), freelance photographer Alyaksandr Sayenka (Hrodna), Hleb Labadzenka, the host of Belsat talk show Each of Us (Minsk).
Unexpected guests also visited Hrodna-based freelance journalist Alyaksei Kairys, his place was searched. The officers of the notorious GUBOPiK/GUBAZiK raided the flat of Khrystsina Charnyauskaya, pro-Lukashenka Telegram channels report.
The police came to search the home of Pavel Mazheika, a prominent Hrodna journalist and the founder of non-state ‘Centre for Urban Life’. In late March, Hrodna prosecutor’s office opened a criminal case against Pavel Mazheika and artist Ales Pushkin, as well as other persons for ‘committing deliberate acts aimed at the rehabilitation and justification of Nazism’ under Part 3 Article 130.
Officers of the Brest criminal investigation department visited journalist Viktar Yarashuk in the town of Pinsk; they seized a computer and a mobile phone from him. The man is known to be a witness in a criminal case. Yarashuk was not detained.
The flat of Brest journalist Ales Lyauchuk’s parents was searched by GUBAZiK as part of the criminal case opened under Article 342-1 of the Criminal Code over the events of September 13 (the so called round-dance case) nothing was confiscated.
Security officers broke down the door to the flat of Brest journalist Milana Kharytonava (she is not in Belarus at the moment), conducted a search, took away an old laptop and mobile phones.
Journalist Hanna Halyota was searched and detained under Article 293 of the Criminal Code. She is a host of the anti-fake show Roguish News on Belsat TV.
At about 11.15 am, Belsat journalist Lyubou Lunyova reported that her place was being searched.
The door to the apartment of freelance journalist Maryia Artsybashava was broken down by the police. Maryia was not at home at that moment.
Searches also took place in the flats of Pinsk cameraman Andrey Yakimush and his mother. Earlier, Andrey had to flee Belarus, now he is in one of the neighbouring countries.
11.55 Khrystsina Charnyauskaya is at large, she is a witness in a criminal case initiated under Article 293 of the Criminal Code (‘mass riots’). Her laptop, mobile phone, dictaphone were confiscated.
12.00 Ihar Ilyash was detained and taken to the Investigative Committee. The oficers reportedly made attempts to humiliate him during the detention. Ihar is a co-author of the book Belarusian Donbas which the authorities recognised as ‘extremist’. He is the husband of Belsat TV journalist Katsyaryna Andreyeva who was sentenced to 2 years of imprisonment.
12.10 Freelance photographer Alyaksandr Sayenka is at large. He is a witness in a criminal case under Art. 342-1 (‘organisation of actions that grossly violate public order’). His place was searched, two phones, two cameras, a pendrive were seized.
12.30 Hleb Labadzenka has not been detained, he says on Facebook.
13.00 In the morning, a police van arrived at the place of journalist Syarhei Skulavets. He might have been taken away by the police; he has been out of reach for the past five hours.
14.10 Ihar Ilyash is charged under Art. 293 and 342 of the Criminal Code(‘mass riots’ and ‘organisation of actions that grossly violate public order’, respectively).
14.15 Pavel Mazheika has been released; after the search he was taken for interrogation to Leninski district police department of Hrodna. He is a witness in a case launched under Article 342-1. The policemen asked him questions about the post-election events in Hrodna on August 9-13.
14.30 Hrodna-based freelance journalist Alyaksei Kairys has been released after questioning. He is a witness in athe above mentioned criminal case opened under Article 342-1.
15.10 Homiel freelance journalist Larysa Shchyrakova says on Facebook that officers from GUBAZiK/GUBOPiK have searched her place and interrogated her today; computer equipment and a mobile phone have been seized.
Last week, the State Security Committee (KGB) reported the conduct of ‘an operation to clean up radicals’. The statement was voiced by Kanstantsin Bychak, the deputy head of the KGB investigation department, on the air of the state-run TV channel Belarus 1. It is unknown whether that was the operation announced by Alyaksandr Lukashenka on July 2 and whether it was connected with the attack on the free press and activists.
On July 8, law enforcement agencies made a number of raids on independent Belarusian media outlets, e.g. Nasha Niva (Minsk); Brestskaya Gazeta (Brest); Intex-Press (Baranavichy); Orsha.eu (Orsha); Media-Palesse (Pinsk-Luninets-Stolin).
On July 14, the security forces carried out numerous searches of the offices and flats of NGOs and human rights defenders; at least 11 persons were detained then.
15.20 After being questioned by the Investigative Committee, journalist Yauhen Merkis has been released. Two laptops and mobile phones were seized from him.
15.50 Journalist Ihar Ilyash has been sent to the remand prison. According to the family, his physical and emotional condition is good.
15.55 Freelance journalist Syarhei Skulavets is at liberty; he was interrogated by the Brest branch of GUBAZiK.