On March 25, local police resorted to evidence-free accusations and detained activists to prevent them from going to Minsk and celebrating Freedom Day.
Natallya Strelchanka, a resident of Dubrouna, was arrested at about 6 am when she was leaving her house.
On March 26, Natallya was taken to court at 10 am. As the woman felt bad, an ambulance was called and the hearing was deferred by three hours. The police officers who witnessed during the trial failed to give any clear testimony, and a defense lawyer raised a number of questions. As a result the trial was moved to Friday.
According to orsha.eu, 15 policemen were involved in the operation to bar Orsha-based activist of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Yauhen Anishchanka from leaving for Minsk.
Anishchanka was taken off the train when he was heading to the Belarusian capital. The policemen suspected Yauhen of being drunk, but later they charged him with parking violation and imposed a fine of 24.5 Belarusian rubles). The activist was released and then detained again: according to the police, the activist failed to stop in front of a halt sign when driving to the railway station. His case will be considered on March, 29.
Henadz Shepeleu, a resident of Baran, came to Orsha. He was going to unfold a white-red-white flag near the monument to prominent Belarusian writer Uladzimir Karatkevich. At first, the police only put down his personal data, but then they suddenly changed their minds and accused Shepeleuof violation of traffic rules. Finally, the activist was charged with unauthorized picketing (Article 23.34 of the Administrative Code). He may face a fine or arrest.
According to the Belarusian human rights community, police officers detained at least 110 people on March 25. The response of the Belarusian authorities to the events on Belarus’ unofficial Freedom Day was disproportionate, the EU said on Monday.
On March 25, the Minsk police were hunting for human rights defenders and journalists who were about to cover and observe the march and concert in Minsk. Belsat TV journalists Katsyaryna Andreyeva, Syarhei Kavaliou, Lyubou Lunyova, Ihar Ilyash and Stas Ivashkevich were arrested. In the morning, the police hampered the work of Volha Czajczyc and Andrus Kozel. They were detained by the traffic police near their homes and released after their IDs were checked. But they were stopped again at the entrance to Minsk, Kozel was sent to a mental hospital.
In late February, Minsk authorities allowed to hold a Freedom Day concert and a rally next to the Opera and Ballet Theatre, but banned the applicants from marching. However, several politicians submitted another application for holding a march on the occasion at Minsk city executive committee, but failed to give any approval.
As reported earlier, the authorities started to preventively detain politicians who were about to hold a march on March 25, Belarus’ unofficial Freedom Day. Uladzimir Nyaklyayeu and Maxim Vinyarski will spend 10 days in prison; Vyachaslau Siuchyk – 5 days. Riot policemen made activist Yauhen Afnahel leave his place after threatening to storm the house. Although politician Mikalai Statkevich had not left his house for several days, the police grabbed him on Sunday morning. On Thursday, activists of the BPF Youth were detained when distributing invitations to the concert authorised by Minsk authorities.
After the concert, the authorities unexpectedly released Statkevich, Afnahel, Siuchyk, Vinyarski and Nyaklyayeu. According to the organisers, about 50,000 people attended the Independence feast.
March 25, 2018 was be the 100th anniversary of the proclamation of the Belarusian People’s Republic (BNR). It came into existence at the end of the First World War, when Bolshevik forces left Minsk and the city was occupied by German troops. On March 25, 1918 the Provisional Government (Rada) proclaimed the independence of the BNR. After the Red Army re-entered Minsk, the Communist government replaced the Rada; its members had to emigrate. For many years, Lukashenka regime has been slamming and even persecuting those who pay the tribute to the BNR.