Natallia Hersche released after 17 months behind bars

The former political prisoner Natallia Hersche, a Belarusian woman with Swiss citizenship, had been held kept behind bars for 17 months. Her brother and the Swiss ambassador greeted Natallia.

Political prisoner Natallia Hersche after her release. Photo: Ignazio Cassis/twitter

Hersche is now returning to Switzerland, Swiss Confederation President Ignazio Cassis wrote on Twitter.

“I’m glad that Switzerland’s diplomatic efforts have paid off. Together with the Swiss Embassy in Belarus, we call for the release of all those arrested for exercising political and civil rights,” Cassis added.

“Thank you to everyone who worried about me,” Hersche said after her release.

Natallia Hersche joined a “women’s march” near the Kamarouski Market in Minsk on September 19, 2020, which prompted her detention by security forces. When detained, Natallia did not obey the officers’ demands to enter the special vehicle tried to run away. When riot policeman Syarhei Konchyk stopped her actions, she resisted, grabbing Konchyk’s face and scratching it. She also pulled off his balaclava. Following this, she was criminally charged or “resisting a police officer” under Article 363 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus.

She left Belarus and will return to Switzerland.

Before the trial, Natallia was kept in the pre-trial detention center in Zhodzina. On December 3, the court began to consider her criminal case. On December 7, Judge of Savetski District Court of Minsk Syarhei Shatsila announced her sentence: 2 years and six months in a general regime penal colony. That’s the punishment the state prosecutor asked earlier.

In September 2021, the Homiel court decided to replace the regime of Natallia with the prison regime. She was serving her sentence in prison #4.

Swiss Ambassador to Belarus Christine Honegger-Zolotukhin arrived in Minsk in February this year. Before she came to Belarus, she planned to visit Natallia Hersche in prison.