Belarusian Press Club founder tells about her time in jail and release

Alyaksandra Slutskaya meets her mother, Yulia Slutskaya, founder of “Press Club,” after 8 months in jail. Minsk, Belarus. August 19, 2021.
Photo: Belsat

The founder and head of “Press Club,” Yulia Slutskaya, along with other organization members, spent nearly eight months in pre-trial detention. She shared her experiences and the details of her release with the “Press Club” website:

“My first interrogation, which was an interview without a lawyer, lasted almost 36 hours without a break. And it was scary – they were changing and I was staying. Again, I knew very well in theory that you couldn’t answer anything except “yes” and “no,” but I said something because I felt like I was only telling the truth, and it couldn’t be dangerous. At that point you don’t realize that anything you don’t think can be a crime or a violation of the law can be used against you, and it will.”

According to her, after a day and a half of interrogation, she was “allowed to sleep for an hour right at the table with the lights on.”

Commenting on the detention of her son Pyots, Yulia Slutskaya noted that he was “just taken hostage because he is a cameraman, a sound engineer, he had nothing to do with financial matters.”

“We didn’t write the pardon petition.”

Yulia Slutskaya said that the release of the “Press Club” members “had nothing to do with Vaskrasenski [the initiator of the letters of political prisoners to Alyaksandr Lukashenka asking for clemency – Belsat. eu] and his program.” However, they did receive letters from him.

“We didn’t write a pardon petition ourselves; it didn’t even occur to us. They came to us with such an offer,” said the head of the “Press Club.”

The organization representatives had to admit guilt and repay the “damage” in double measure to be released. Yulia Slutskaya explains this decision:

“We just needed to get out. The decision was on me and I made it, later I asked the team to listen to me and accept it. Our families and friends, who were suffering just as much as we were all these months, had been waiting for us to go out. Still, it wasn’t an easy decision to make.”

She said the members were accused of “allegedly taking advantage of the simplified taxation system and not being entitled to it because they were renting space.”

“And our admission of guilt sounded like this: we worked, we held events, meetings, we acted within our mission, we consulted with accountants and lawyers, we paid taxes, and we were sure we weren’t violating anything. But if the investigation believes there are violations, we are ready to plead guilty and pay damages,” said the head of “Press Club.”

On 19 August, the director of “Press Club” Siarhei Alsheuski, founder of “Press Club” Yulia Slutskaya, program director Alla Sharko and operator Pyotr Slutski were released.

According to “Press Club,” they were released on pardon. They had been behind bars for eight months.

All of them were detained on December 22, 2020, under the “Press Club” case. Slutskaya was detained directly at the airport on her way back from vacation. The detainees in the “Press Club” case were recognized as political prisoners.

Members of “Press Club” were accused of non-payment of taxes allegedly connected with the “project of public television” of former employees of the state TV channel. Relatives of the detainees transferred 109,769 Belarusian rubles and 58 kopecks to the Investigative Committee – this amount, according to the investigators, this amount is the underpaid taxes of the “Press Club.”

belsat. eu