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 19 December 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.
Irina Khalip is a journalist for the Russian Novaya Gazeta and wife of opposition presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov (still in detention). On 19 December 2010 she was arrested and severely beaten by the police. She was held in isolation by the KGB for one month and charged with ‘organizing and participating in mass disorder.' Like Neklyaev, she was placed under strict house arrest in January 2011. Her house arrest is due to end on 13 May 2011, however, as yet no date has been set for her trial. She has been denied access to the internet, telephone and newspapers. Shortly after her arrest, the authorities attempted to take her son from the family and place him in state custody.
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.
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 Centre in Belarus:
Post box 218, 220050,
(messages will be passed on to the families)
Messages to the following detainees can be sent to the same prison address at:
Post box 8, 220050,
Pavel Severinets: ????????? ????? ?????????????? (name in Russian Cyrillic)
Aleksandr Fiaduta: ?????? ????????? ?????????
Dimitri Bondarenko: ?????????? ??????? ??????????
Appeals should be sent to the Belarusian authorities:
President of the Republic of Belrus
Alyaksandr G. Lukashenka
Karl Marx Str. 38
220016 g. Minsk
Fax: + 375 172 26 06 10 or +375 172 22 38 72
Please note: there have been reports that the President's email address is not working, so please consider sending your appeals via the Belarusian government website
Similar appeals should be sent to the Belarusian Embassy in your own country.
PEN International celebrates literature and promotes freedom of expression. Founded in 1921, our global community of writers now spans more than 100 countries. Our campaigns, events, publications and programmes aim to connect writers and readers wherever they are in the world.
For further information please contact Sara Whyatt the Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International, Brownlow House, 50-51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER Tel: +44 (02) 20 7405 0338 Fax: +44 (0) 20 74050339 Email: email@example.com
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