RAN 35/10: BELARUS UPDATE

RAN 35/10

BELARUS: Trials begin of writers and journalists detained since December

Trials have begun against Belarusian writers and journalists who were detained following demonstrations against the results of the flawed presidential election of December 19, 2010. The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International renews its calls for the dismissal of these politically-motivated criminal cases, the release of all writers in prison and an end to their harassment.

Vladimir Neklyaev, is a writer, poet, former president of the Belarus PEN Centre, and the opposition Tell the Truth party's candidate in the 2010 presidential elections. He was arrested on 19 December 2010 and held for a month in a KGB detention centre, during which time he was severely beaten and denied adequate medical services (in Belarus the security services are still called the KGB). Although the charges against him have been downgraded from ‘organization of mass riots’ to ‘preparation of activities designed to disturb the public order’, Neklyaev still faces up to three years in prison if convicted. His trial is due to start on 5 May 2011.

Natalia Radzina is a journalist for the pro-democracy news website Charter 97. She was arrested alongside all the staff and volunteers at the website on 19 December 2010 and charged with ‘organizing and participating in mass disorder’. On 31 March 2011 she was summoned to the State Security Committee to take part in investigative actions related to her case. Radzina is believed to have fled the country.

Pavel Severinets is an opposition activist, author of several books, and a member of Belarus PEN. He was arrested on 19 December 2010 and charged under Article 293 of the Criminal Code of Belarus (‘Organization of riots'). As of 26 April 2011 he remains under arrest although it is not clear if the charges against him have been changed.

Aleksandr Fiaduta is an author, literary critic and member of Belarus PEN, as well as a member of the Tell the Truth party. He was arrested on 19 December 2010 and was charged with ‘organization of riots'. As with Neklyaev, the charges against him have subsequently been downgraded to ‘preparation of activities that break public order’, however, he still faces up to three years in prison if convicted. His trial is due to start on 5 May 2011.

Dimitri Bondarenko, is a journalist at Charter 97. He is charged with ‘preparation of activities that break public order’ and his trial began on 24 April 2011. Bondarenko has reportedly admitted to participation in the demonstrations in December, but has denied the other charges brought against him.

BACKGROUND
Previous RAN alerts about Belarus
Report about attacks on the press in Belarus

MESSAGES OF SUPPORT

Some of these writers and journalists are not receiving mail, but messages of support for all six of them and their families can be sent to the PEN Center in Belarus:

Belarus PEN
Post box 218, 220050
Minsk, Belarus

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