As part of Libereco’s #WeStandBYyou solidarity campaign, Anders Österberg (Swedish Parliament, Swedish Social Democratic Labour Party), Terry Reintke (European Parliament, Alliance90/The Greens, Germany) and Cathal Crowe (Dáil Éireann, Fianna Fáil, Ireland) are taking over godparenthood for political prisoners in Belarus.
The 60-years-old Aliaksandr Hubeika is an activist of the social democratic party BSDH (Hramada) and the independent trade union REP. Hubeika was charged with allegedly using force against a police officer and sentenced to 2 years imprisonment on 21 January 2021, despite contradictory statements by the police officer. Hubeika pleaded not guilty.
Anders Österberg, as a member of the Swedish Parliament, has taken over the godparenthood for Aliaksandr Hubeika and declared: “Freedom for Aliksandr Hubeika! We stand with you, Aliaksandr. You should be free to work for workers’ rights and strengthen the Belarusian trade unions. You should not be in prison for exercising your right to express your opinion. You are not alone and not forgotten. #WeStandByYou”
Volha Zalatar is a civil society activist from Ždanovičy near Minsk, was an observer at the 2020 presidential elections and has five minor children. On 18.03.2021, officers stopped her car, escorted her home, searched her flat and subsequently took her to a pre-trial detention centre. The press service of the Minsk Regional Police reported that Volha Zalatar was arrested for her “active protest activity”, as she was an administrator of a local chat and organised unsanctioned mass events such as tea parties, walks and concerts. She was charged under Article 361 of the Belarusian Criminal Code for “creating an extremist formation”.
Terry Reintke, Vice-President of the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament, said on the occasion of taking over her godparenthood for Volha Zalatar: “I call for the immediate release of Volha Zalatar and all political prisoners in Belarus. I strongly condemn the blatant disregard for democratic principles and the falsification of elections, as well as the mass arrests of civilians following the ensuing protests and massive human rights violations. Belarus must guarantee the fundamental rights of Belarusians and hold free and fair elections immediately. As a Member of the European Parliament, I will continue to work for this.”
Siarhei Gatskevich is a 17-year-old high school student from Brest who was charged with “participation in mass disorder” under Article 293 of the Belarusian Criminal Code following his participation in the protests against the rigged presidential elections. Along with eight other defendants, he was sentenced to 3 years’ imprisonment in a juvenile detention facility on 10.03.2021.
Cathal Crowe, as a Member of the Irish Parliament, has taken over the godparenthood for Siarhei Hatskevich and says: “I am happy to be declared the adopter of Siarhei Hatskevich. He was a high school pupil before his arrest and detention and the life he’s currently living is in sharp contrast with what teenagers of his age in Ireland are living. All freedom has been taken from him – he should be enjoying the liberation and exuberances of youth and yet he finds himself behind bars. My office team and I will be doing everything we can to highlight his situation and to seek his release. It’s hard to believe in the 21st century that Belarus, on the doorstep of the EU, still operates on a dictatorial basis. During recent Dáil debates, I have spoken on the Belarusian situation. Whilst all of Europe has embraced a western style of democracy, Belarus is definitely lagging behind and it still operates a regime like what existed in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. I regularly attend local schools and speak to pupils and when I resume this activity in September, I hope to make students in my constituency of Clare aware of Siarhei’s struggle and they too can join me in fighting for his release.”