As part of our #WeStandBYyou solidarity campaign, David Lega (European People’s Party, Kristdemokraterna, Sweden), Elisabeth Götze (Die Grünen, Austria), Lukas Mandl (European People’s Party, Österreichische Volkspartei, Austria) and Barbara Gysi (Sozialdemokratische Partei der Schweiz, Switzerland)  take on a godparenthood for Katsiaryna Dzhyh, Tatsiana Kurylina, Aleh Zavadski and Yuliya Laptanovich.

David Lega

Katsiaryna Dzhyh was arrested on 8 June 2023 for her comments on social media. The judge sentenced her to 4 years in prison for “Insulting the president” (Art.369) and allegedly “Endangering national security” (Art. 361). Katsiaryna has 4 children, one of whom is still a minor. In addition, her eldest daughter is dependent on her mother’s help due to her disability.

David Lega is a Swedish Member of the European Parliament (Kristdemokraterna) and, among others, a Subcommittee on Human Rights member. He takes over the godparenthood of Katsiaryna Dzhyh and explains: “I am honored to assume the role of godparent for Katsiaryna Dzhyh. My own experiences as a person with a disability deepen my empathy for Katsiaryna, who is currently incarcerated on unfounded accusations that challenge the very essence of freedom of speech. Her charges, which allege “harming national security” and “insulting and slandering the president,” underscore the critical need to safeguard the right for everyone to express one’s views. Katsiaryna’s responsibilities as a mother to four children, particularly one requiring special care due to a disability, add urgency to her plight. In my capacity as her godparent, I am committed to amplifying the call for her release and advocating for her rights. It is imperative that we collectively voice our opposition to such violations and work diligently to secure Katsiaryna’s freedom, ensuring she is able to return to her family and receive the justice she deserves.”


Elisabeth Götze

Tatsiana Kurylina was abroad and was persuaded to return to Belarus under false pretensions and subsequently arrested on 22 August 2022. In chats, Tatsiana allegedly called for participation in protests and violent actions against state officials. The charges against her included “Endangering national security” (Art. 361), “Incitement to hatred” (Art. 130), “Insulting the president” (Art.369) and “Violation of public order” (Art. 342). Tatsiana was finally sentenced to 4.5 years in prison.

Elisabeth Götze is a member of the Austrian National Council for Die Grünen (Greens). With her support for Tatsiana Kurylina, she is already taking on her second godparenthood and states: “I demand the release of Tatsiana Kurylina! She was living abroad and was lured back to her home country with the state promise that her charges would be dropped (“Way Home programme”). Nevertheless, she was arrested immediately after her return home and sentenced to four and a half years in prison in a non-public trial. This shows how the Belarusian dictatorship operates: Arbitrarily, and the judiciary passes judgment on camera. The rule of law and access to fair trials are crucial cornerstones of any democracy. I stand in solidarity with all the people in Belarus who are fighting for this!”


Lukas Mandl

Aleh Zavadski spoke out publicly against Lukashenko and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The court found Aleh guilty of “Insulting the president” (Art.369) and “Incitement to hatred” (Art. 130) and sentenced him to 3.5 years in prison.

Lukas Mandl is a Member of the European Parliament for the Österreichische Volkspartei (Austrian People’s Party) and a member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs. With his third godparenthood, this time, he stands in solidarity with Aleh Zavadski: “Aleh Zavadski serves as an advocate of liberty and dignity. He is a true leader, because he provides all of us with an example of how to remain brave facing perpetrators. As all political prisoners he will not be forgotten. He will be remembered. I demand his release and I hope to see him in freedom.”


Barbara Gysi

Yuliya Laptanovich is a mother of 3 children and was arrested together with her husband, Ihar, for taking part in a peaceful dance protest. While her husband was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison, Yuliya was placed under house arrest for 3 years. On 13 October 2021, Yuliya was arrested again, and new criminal proceedings were opened against her for allegedly “Promoting extremist activities” (Art. 361-4), “Violation of public order” (Art. 342), and “Insulting the president” (Art.369). The judges sentenced Yuliya to 4 years and 9 months in prison. Ihar, her husband, was only released in June 2023.

Barbara Gysi is a member of the Swiss National Council for the Sozialdemokratische Partei der Schweiz and President of the Social Security and Health Committee. She is taking on her third godparenthood and is now supporting Yuliya Laptanovich. Barbara Gysi explains: “I demand freedom for Yuliya Laptanovich and all other political prisoners in Belarus! She has been imprisoned to this day solely because she exercised her human right to freedom of expression and assembly. I very much hope that Yulia Laptanovich will be released soon so that she can see her three children and her husband again.”