As part of Libereco’s #WeStandBYyou solidarity campaign, Helmut Scholz (Germany, European Parliament, Die Linke), Tomáš Martínek (Czech Republic, Poslanecká sněmovna Parlamentu, Pirate Party) and Thijs Reuten (Netherlands, European Parliament, Partij van de Arbeid) are taking over godparenthoods of political prisoners in Belarus.
Nadzeya and Uladzimir Kalach are members of the folk-rock band Irdorath. They were arrested on August 2, 2021 in a summer house near Minsk during Nadzeya Kalach’s birthday party. Some individuals were convicted of police disobedience over the following two days, while others, including Nadzeya and Uladzimir , were arrested on criminal charges under Article 342 of the Criminal Code of Belarus (organizing or actively participating in group actions that grossly violate public order).
Helmut Scholz, Member of the European Parliament, has apodted Nadzeya and Uladzimir Kalach, stating, “I stand with Nadzeya and Uladzimir Kalač, lead singer and bagpiper of the folk rock band Irdorath, and call for their immediate release. The two have been arrested for participating in group actions that grossly violate public order for providing musical accompaniment to peaceful protest marches with bagpipes. Unbelievable actually in the third decade of the 21st century. But it is a deep cut into the universal human rights recognized by almost all states of the world, including Belarus, when artists are detained completely unjustifiably while exercising their passion and their right to freedom of speech, expression and assembly. People in Belarus want to practice their right to participate in shaping a democratic pluralistic society in real terms. What is wrong with that? We in the European Parliament will continue to consistently support these rights and will therefore also do everything we can to support the political prisoners in Belarus. I hope that they are doing well under the circumstances, that they are not exposed to repression or even mental and physical abuse, and above all that they will soon be able to perform on stage again. To suppress art means to stifle any social development. Already suppressed during the German Vormärz in the 19th century, a simple folk song is still valid today: “Thoughts are free, who can guess them, they fly by like nocturnal shadows. No man can know them, no dungeon can lock them up. Let it remain so: thoughts are free!” Hang in there, Nadzeya and Uladzimir, we are with you in thoughts!”
Dzmitry Panko is a resident of Brest, a defendant in a criminal case of mass riots (Part 2, Article 293 of the Criminal Code of Belarus) opened after the post-election protests of August 2020. Prior to the trial, he was free but under travel restrictions. On the firts day of the trial, July 19, 2021, Panko was taken into custody and remaded in a pre-trial detention center. On August 12, 2021, Judge Sviataslau Kalina of the Lieninski District Court of Brest sentenced him to 3 years in prison.
Tomáš Martínek, member of the Czech Parliament, has taken over the sponsorship of Dzmitry Panko and declares: “I am shocked by the situation in Belarus and violation of human rights there. I consider freedom of assembly and freedom of speech as essential freedoms which cannot be denied. I support Dzmitry Panko and hope that he will be released and acquitted on all charges”.
Uladzislau Makavetski is 27-year-old artist, who collects and renovates historical artifacts. According to the Interior Ministry of Belarus, he was active in attacking police officers. She also accused him of being a collector of Nazi insignia. He was charged under Art. 364 of the Criminal Code of Belarus (violence or threat of violence against a police officer). In his last statement at the trial, Uladzislau Makavetski said that he did not intend and did not harm anyone. On December 16, the Kastryčnicki District Court of Viciebsk sentenced Makavetski to two years in a general-security penal colony.
Thijs Reuten, member of the European Parliament, said on the occasion of taking over the godparenthood of Uladzislau Makavetski: “The situation in Belarus is terrible. It is very saddening that there are currently over 600 political prisoners in Belarus. This includes women and men, young and old. One of them is Uladzislau Makavetski, a 27-year-old artist who collects and renovates historical artifacts. He was falsely accused and faces two years in prison. Europe can not abandon the brave inhabitants of Belarus. Their fight for democracy is our fight.”