Press Club founder Yuliya Slutskaya and a number of her associates are accused under Art. 243-2 of the Criminal Code (large-scale tax evasion) and Art. 16-6 (complicity in a crime) of the Criminal Code of Belarus.
The charges against Slutskaya, as well as financial director Syarhei Alsheuski, programming director Ala Sharko, cameramen Pyotr Slutski and Dzyanis Sokalouski were pressed on December 31. The arrestees are being held in pre-trial detention centre No. 1 on Valadarski Street in Minsk.
Press Club Media Academy program director Syarhei Yakupau (he is a citizen of Russia) was taken to Minsk Airport on the same day and deported from the country. The man was cleared of all suspicions, no accusations were brought against him.
Alyaksandra, Yuliya Slutskaya’s daughter and Pyotr Slutski’s sister, says there has been no special news about the course of the investigation into the case yet. Defence lawyers have the opportunity to see their clients, but some of them had to sign gagging orders.
“There are seven people in the cell which my mother was put in. When she was jailed, only an upper bunk was left. As my mother has a sore back, it was difficult to climb up and down. But her cellmates are very kind, someone switched places with her. Now my mother has at least a more comfortable bunk,” she said.
According to Alyaksandra, her mother is holding up well, trying ‘not to get upset about what she cannot change’. Being eager to keep fit, Yuliya Slutskaya started to do exercises even behind bars.
On December 21, the Press Club Belarus founder was met at the airport upon her arrival in Minsk and taken to the Department of Financial Investigations. Yet at the same time, the police searched the flats of Ala Sharko, Syarhei Alsheuski, Syarhei Yakupau. They also raided the office of the independent organisation, and Slutskaya’s home in Minsk. On the same day, Slutskaya, Sharko, Alsheuski, Yakupau as well as Press Club cameraman Pyotr Slutski were placed in detention.
As reported earlier, Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey announced limiting the activities of a number of foundations in Belarus and reviewing their humanitarian, educational and cultural programs in the wake of the third package of sanctions imposed on Belarusian officials by the European Union. It is known that Press Club Belarus launched a number of its educational programs in cooperation with the embassies of several EU member states.
Press Club, Belarusian media workers’ meeting point and a venue for lectures and discussions on the current social and political situation in Belarus, is financed, inter alia, by EU countries.