Opposition leader Mikalai Statkevich recognised as political prisoner

Belarusian human rights defenders have recognised 2010 presidential candidate Mikalai Statkevich as political prisoner.

According to the human rights centre Viasna, they were guided in their decision by previously adopted statements about the recognition of political prisoners in the so called Tsikhanouski case. They demand the Belarusian authorities immediately release Mikalai Statkevich and dismiss criminal proceedings.

On June 29, the authorities opened a criminal case under Art. 342-1 (organising actions that grossly violate public order) against the politician.

Statkevich has been under arrest since May, 31. On that day, the former political prisoner was rounded up by plainclothes men when he was going to a picket to collect signatures for wannabe presidential candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya. On June 1, the opposition politician was punished with administrative detention (15 days in custody). Two weeks ago, a Minsk court sentenced Mikalai Statkevich to another 15-day jail term.

Since the start of the election campaign, 17 Belarusians have been charged under Art. 342 and placed behind bars.

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