Imprisoned leader of Poles’ Union agrees to leave for Poland, but Belarus authorities stalling

Andżelika Borys.

Andżelika Borys, Chairperson of the Union of Poles in Belarus, gave her consent to leave Belarus. Since being taken into custody, her condition has become acute, Belsat TV Director Agnieszka Romaszewska-Guzy said on Facebook, referring to her own sources.

According to Romaszewska-Guzy, Andżelika Borys’ health has significantly deteriorated behind bars; the woman is experiencing dental problems as well as a recurrence of chronic diseases. The head of the Union of Poles reportedly agreed to go to Poland, but the Belarusian authorities are putting the process on the back burner, trying to use it in exerting pressure on her jailed associate, journalist Andrzej Poczobut. They want to compel him to depart as well.

On Wednesday, the Penitentiary Department has responded to the Belarusian Association of Journalists’ inquiry about Poczobut’s health condition. As reported earlier, the journalist contracted COVID-19 and had heart problems. The letter states that ‘the department leaves the appeal without consideration’, as information about patients health is linked to medical privacy.

Andrzej Poczobut’s wife Aksana suggests that the political prisoner was deprived of necessary medicines behind bars. Andrzej asked to hand medicines over to him; on May 27, the defence lawyer brought them to the pre-trial detention centre. However, on May 31, the man resubmitted his request, which means that he hardly received them. Aksana is worried about Andrzej because the cardiac rhythm was wrong, so the medicines were vital.

Andżelika Borys and Andrzej Poczobut are two of five arrested representatives of the Polish minority; the Belarusian security services apprehended them as part of the so-called Polish case. On June 2, Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that three Polish minority activists from Belarus – Irena Biernacka, Maria Tiszkowska and Anna Paniszewa – arrived in Poland on May 25 ‘as a result of efforts by Polish diplomatic and consular services’. According to our information, the Belarusian authorities made the three women’s return to the country impossible by imposing travel restrictions on them before taking the arrestees to the Belarusian-Polish border.

Shortly before the arrival, Agnieszka Romaszewska-Guzy got information that Poczobut and Borys were offered to be released and deported from the country, but they refused.

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This spring, the Belarusian Prosecutor General’s Office initiated a criminal case against Andżelika Borys, Chairperson of the Union of Poles in Belarus, and other members of the organisation.

They are charged under Art. 130-3 of the Criminal Code (‘deliberate actions aimed at inciting national and religious hatred according to national, religious, language, other social affiliation, as well as through justifying Nazism, which were committed by a group of persons’). According to them, the Polish activists’ recent aсtivity, i.e. holding some events, is relevant to ‘the rehabilitation of Nazism and justifying the genocide of the Belarusian people’.

On March 25, homes of some members of the Union of Poles in Belarus were raided as part of the criminal case. Belarusian security officers made unexpected visits to Hrodna-based media worker Andrzej Poczobut (he was later arrested and taken to Minsk for interrogation); Maria Tiszkowska, the director of the UPB public school in Vaukavysk; Irena Biernacka, the head of the Lida branch of the Union. The police also came to the Polish public school and the headquarters of the Union of Poles in Hrodna. The search of the office lasted eight hours, from 9 am to 5 pm. Poczobut, Biernacka, Tiszkowska, Borys were taken into custody.

On March 12, Anna Paniszewa, the director of Polish School, was arrested on her way to Belarus from Poland. Shortly before the detention, Paniszewa posted an appeal to the public; she believes that the authorities fabricate the charges, aiming at the liquidation of the school.

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