Human rights activists Leanid Sudalenka, Maryia Tarasenka recognised as political prisoners

Maryia Tarasenka and Leanid Sudalenka in court.

On January 18, the local police arrested Leanid Sudalenka, human rights defender and chairman of the Homieĺ branch of the human rights centre Viasna.

“Leanid Sudalenka is a well-known human rights activist who has been defending human rights for 20 years, providing free legal assistance, including in preparing individual complaints to the UN Human Rights Committee on behalf of Belarusian nationals whose rights were violated by the government,” his colleagues said.

In early January, a nine-hour raid was carried out by Organised Crime Combating Department officers on human rights defenders’ office Homielskaya Vyasna. Computers, data storage devices, white-red-white flags and documents were seized. After the search, the officers took Sudalenka away for a ‘conversation’, but on that day, he was released.

Two weeks later, Leanid Sudalenka was charged under Art. 342 of the Criminal Code (organisation or active participation in group actions that grossly violatepublic order) and taken into custody.

Homiel: Hours-long police raid on human rights defenders’ office

Sudalenka’s assistant Maryia Tarasenka was also detained and placed in a detention centre. Her status in the case and the charges she is facing are still unknown.

Amid the current political crisis in Belarus, representatives of the country’s human rights defenders’ community are also subjected to repression and intimidation in connection with their activity, their joint statement reads. According to them, the persecution of Sudalenka and Tarasenka is politically motivated, as it is only aimed at stopping their public and non-violent activities seeking the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

in view of all this, the representatives of human rights organisations in Belarus have recognised Leanid Sudalenka and Maryia Tarasenka as political prisoners and called on the authorities to immediately release the two activists and drop the criminal charges against them.

As of January 21, there are 189 names on the list of Belarusian political prisoners.

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