First Minister of Scotland Humza Yousaf

Today, Libereco’s solidarity campaign #WeStandBYyou for political prisoners has reached another milestone: With First Minister of Scotland Humza Yousaf becoming the 400th parliamentarian to take on symbolic godparenthood for a political prisoner in Belarus.

As part of Libereco’s #WeStandBYyou campaign First Minister of Scotland Humza Yousaf becomes a godparent for Belarusian political prisoner Dzmitryi Halavacz. The Scottish First Minister is the 400th parliamentarian who has taken on a symbolic godparenthood for a political prisoner and the first head of government joining the solidarity campaign.

41 year old Dzmitryi Halavacz has been held for a year in prison. He is a member of “Tor Band”, a Belarusian rock group who were involved in the pro-democracy protests in 2020. In January 2023 the regime of dictator Alexander Lukashenko declared the band “extremist” and in October Dzmitryi Halavacz was sentenced to 9 years in prison.

First head of government joining #WeStandBYyou campaign

First Minister Humza Yousaf said: “Politicians who rage against democracy never prevail. I watched aghast as Lukashenko stole the election in Belarus in 2020, and the brutal crackdown on those who disagreed with him that followed. As the first head of a government anywhere in the world to sponsor a political prisoner of the Belarus regime, I encourage others to join Scotland in unequivocally condemning the abuses carried out by the Lukashenko regime against the Belarusian people.”

He added: “Dzmitryi has been handed a nine-year prison sentence – simply for exercising his freedom to speak out, and protest. I hope that by shining a light on what him and others are facing in Belarus, I and the government I lead can raise awareness of and support for him, and for the thousands of other political prisoners in Belarus.”

Tsikhanouskaya embraces “warmth of solidarity”

Belarusian opposition leader Svietlana Tsikhanouskaya expressed her deep appreciation to First Minister Humza Yousaf “for the warmth of your support of Dzmitryi Halavacz through Libereco’s godparenting program”. “Your compassionate stance towards Belarusian political prisoners is really touching. Together, we embrace the warmth of solidarity in the pursuit of freedom and justice,” she said.

Libereco’s godparent campaign matches European parliamentarians with individual Belarusian political prisoners. The now 400 godparents from a total of 23 European countries illustrate the continuing and enormous European solidarity with the victims of the Lukashenko regime.

So far, the Belarusian human rights organisation Viasna has declared more than 4,500 people to have been persecuted for political reasons. Currently, over 1,400 people are political prisoners in Belarus. Since 2020 the Libereco godparents have written to prisoners, spoken to prisoners’ families and campaigned about their prisoners in parliaments and in the media.

To date 400 European parliamentarians from 23 countries have already “adopted” political prisoners from Belarus.