As part of Libereco’s #WeStandBYyou solidarity campaign, Danish Folketinget MPs and Socialist People’s Party Members Lisbeth Bech-Nielsen, Theresa Berg Andersen, Marianne Bigum, Karsten Hønge, Sofie Lippert, Karina Lorentzen Dehnhardt, Signe Munk, Anne Valentina Berthelsen and Carl Valentin have taken on a godparenthood for political prisoners in Belarus.
Mikalai Bredzeleu, spokesman for the telecommunications provider A1, was arrested on 10 April 2021 and charged under Art. 361-2 (“Financing the activities of an extremist group”) of the Belarusian Criminal Code and sentenced to 4 years’ imprisonment in a penal colony on 29 August 2022. The trial took place behind closed doors.
Lisbeth Bech-Nielsen has taken on the godparenthood for Mikalai Bredzeleu and states: “Fabricated politically motivated trials behind closed doors are a dark reality in Lukashenka’s Belarus. Mikalai is one of the hundreds and thousands of Belarusians who insisted on executing their internationally recognized civil rights, including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information through medium of one’s choice. Lukashenka’s regime has put him behind bars for 4 years for that. I demand immediate release of Mikalai.”
Hanna Pyshnik was imprisoned on 22 March 2022 for filming helicopters with malicious intent, according to the prosecution. She was sentenced to 3 years penal colony on 16 August 2022 under Art. 361-4 (“promoting extremist activities”).
Theresa Berg Andersen has taken on the godparenthood for Hanna Pyshnik and emphasizes: “The world has united against the meaningless Russian aggression against Ukraine, and some brave people in Belarus do what in their power to help Ukraine to resist and perform various acts of solidarity. One of those heroes is Hanna Pyshnik, whom I decided to support and be her voice while she is serving 3 years of imprisonment for delivering videos of Russian military movements on Belarusian territory to Ukrainian authorities. First of all, Hanna must be immediately released. Secondly, Belarus must stop providing its territory and resources to Russia for aggression against Ukraine.”
Siarhei Patsukevich was arrested on 17 November 2020 for his participation in the post-election protests in August 2020 and later sentenced to 6 years in a penal colony under Art. 293-2 (“Participation in mass riots”).
Marianne Bigum has taken on the godparenthood for Siarhei Patsukevich and says: “I am supporting the great initiative from Libereco “WeStandByYou” campaign and condemn the politically motivated prosecution of peaceful protests and imprisonment of Siarhei Patsukevich based on false accusations. He, like many others, exercised his right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. I demand the immediate release of Siarhei Patsukevich.”
Katsiaryna Makarevich is a chief accountant and was arrested on 20 September 2021. She was sentenced to 3 ½ years penal colony on 25 April 2022 under Art. 342 (“organization of or participation in actions grossly violating public order”) and Art. 339-2 (“hooliganism”).
Karsten Hønge has taken on the godparenthood for Katsiaryna Makarevich and stresses: “Katsiaryna Makarevich has shown incredible courage, protesting for peace and freedom in Belarus despite constant and violent repression by the Belarusian government. She was sentenced to 3,5 years imprisonment in a penal colony for her regime-critical publications in a Telegram channel. Lukashenka uses brutal punishments for unwelcome expressions of opinion and activism as an instrument of power against his own population, whose democratic spirit he is trying to break. I stand in solidarity with Katsiaryna Makarevich and the Belarusian people, with the thousands of detainees, who have had to give up their freedom and their homeland for democracy.”
Yauhen Liulkovich was first imprisoned on 21 September 2021 and later again on 21 November 2021 after numerous administrative arrests. On 20 June 2022, he was eventually sentenced to 8 years’ imprisonment in a penal colony under Art. 342 (“organizing or participating in actions grossly violating public order”) and Art. 130 (“incitement to hatred”). He is also on the KGB list of alleged terrorists.
Sofie Lippert has taken on the godparenthood for Yauhen Liulkovich and stresses: “I demand the immediate and unconditional release of Yauhen Liulkovich. The meetings leading to his arrest were peaceful and did not pose a threat to national or public security. Despite this, the demonstrators were attacked by special units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs who used disproportionate violence, riot gear, and non-lethal weapons. For the first time in the history of Belarus, rubber bullets and water cannons were used against peaceful demonstrators. A particularly large amount of damage was inflicted by the use of stun grenades. Demonstrating for democracy and human rights is a basic right, not a crime. Nevertheless, Yauhen Liulkovich was arrested for participating in the spontaneous protests after the rigged presidential election.”
Dzianis Dzikun, a keen football fan and owner of a shop, was arrested on 4 March 2022 and sentenced to 23 years in a penal colony on 27 December 2022 under Art. 361-1 (“Creation of or participation in an extremist formation”), Art. 356 (“High treason”), Art. 309 (“Intentional disrepair of a vehicle or communication lines”) and Art. 289 (“Act of terrorism”). He has also been on the KGB list of alleged terrorists since 17 June 2022.
Karina Lorentzen Dehnhardt has taken on the godparenthood for Dzianis Dzikun and notes: “Dzianis Dzikun is one of the courageous Belarusian rail partisans who by his actions slowed down the military aggression of Russia from Belarusian territory. This person undoubtedly saved many Ukrainian lives. The penalty for destroying the railroad switches to make them inoperable, is absurd and disproportionally high. Dzianis Dzikun has shown incredible courage, by delaying the supplies to Russian troops, despite constant and violent repression by the Belarusian government. His prison sentence is pure farce and is emblematic of many other supporters of the democracy movement who are unjustly held as political prisoners. I am happy to stand up for Dzianis Dzikun by taking on his godparenthood. I demand his release and that of all political prisoners in Belarus!“
Aliaksandr Zahdai, an aviation student, was arrested on 6 June 2022 and sentenced to 2 ½ years’ imprisonment in a penal colony on 22 July 2022 under Art. 361-4 (“promoting extremist activities”) after allegedly systematically providing the NEXTA Telegram channel with information.
Signe Munk has taken on the godparenthood for Aliaksandr Zahdai and emphasizes: “Freedom of press and freedom of opinion are universal human rights that must be respected. Aliaksandr Zahdai has shown incredible courage, protesting for peace and freedom in Belarus despite constant and violent repression by the Belarusian government. Lukashenka uses brutal punishments for unwelcome expressions of opinion and activism as an instrument of power against his own population, whose democratic spirit he is trying to break.”
Yuryi Ziankovich worked as a lawyer before his arrest on 12 April 2021 and was sentenced to 11 years of penal colony on 5 September 2022 under Art. 361 (“Calls for actions aimed at causing harm to the national security”), Art. 369 (“Insulting a government official“), Art. 361-1 (“Creation of or participation in an extremist formation”) and Art. 130 (“incitement to hatred”). He is also on the KGB list of alleged terrorists.
Anne Valentina Berthelsen has become Yuryi Ziankovich’s godparent and points out: “I join the voices of international society to speak for Yuryi Ziankovich. The closed-door trials in which politically motivated criminal cases are heard in the absence of the public, independent observers, and independent journalists grossly violate the right of due process and make it impossible to assess the reliability, sufficiency, and admissibility of any evidence for prosecution. Additionally, labelling Yuryi Ziankovich as terrorist, clearly does not correspond to how this term is interpreted by international standards. I demand reviewing YYuryi Ziankovich sentence, where he faces a fair and just trial with full observance of his rights.”
Aliaksandr Ziyazetdzinau was arrested on 15 June 2022 for allegedly sending 0.2 Ether (approx. 800 USD) to the crypto account of BYPOL. On 31 October 2022, he was sentenced behind closed doors to 3 years in a penal colony.
Carl Valentin has taken on the godparenthood for Aliaksandr Ziyazetdzinau and states: “Imprisonment and criminal liability for various protest activities are used by the Belarusian authorities to suppress public and political activism, dissent, and anti-war protests. Groups of citizens united by social or political interests, criticizing the actions of the authorities and demanding changes in the country and its policies are arbitrarily declared extremist by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and KGB. This, in turn, opens the floodgates for the unreasonable prosecution and imprisonment of their participants and contributors as a disproportionate restriction on the right of association and freedom of expression. Thus: I join the human rights community in my demand for immediate release of Aliaksandr and all other political prisoners.”