On January 13, the Belarusian PEN Centre published a statement on the persecution of writer Uladzimir Arlou, one of the founders of the organisation.
Amid the reports about deepening the integration of Belarus and Russia, a number of peaceful rallies were held in Minsk and regions in December. Although President Alyaksandr Lukashenka repeatedly expressed his readiness to uphold the independence of the country, the rubber-stamping Belarusian courts slapped fines on about 60 persons who took up to the streets voicing their protest in view of a growing threat to the sovereignty of Belarus. Officially, the protesters were tried for ‘participating in unauthorised mass events’ (Art. 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses). The total sum of the penalties amounted to 55,000 Belarusian rubles (appr. $27,000).
On January 10, a BYN540 ($255) fine was imposed on Uladzimir Arlou.
“On December 8, 2019, in Kastrychnitskaya Square in central Minsk, Uladzimir Arlou read out loud his essay ‘Independence Means’ at a peaceful gathering of citizens to defend the sovereignty of Belarus. This landmark piece, written in 1990 in the final year of the Soviet Union, reflected the writer’s dream of an independent state.
Uladzimir Arlou read out loud his essay once again when in court and told the judge that all he did during the peaceful rally was reading out that text. He stressed that he did not perform any other acts subject to administrative proceedings against him. That means he was fined for reading a literary work in public,” the statement reads.
The PEN Centre expressed a strong protest against the violation of artistic freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. It also posted the text of the essay by Arlou in eleven languages.