As part of Libereco’s #WeStandBYyou solidarity campaign, Katarina Barley (European Parliament, Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, Germany), Beate Walter-Rosenheimer (German Bundestag, Alliance 90/The Greens) and Katja Keul (German Bundestag, Alliance 90/The Greens) have taken on a godparenthood for political prisoners in Belarus.
Matsvei Hrankevich is a student at Maksim Tank Pedagogical University. He was arrested directly in the Dean’s office on 10 November 2021, and it is known that he was identified from a photo of a protest action. Hrankevich was sentenced to 2 years and two months imprisonment under Article 342 (“organisation of or participation in actions that grossly violate public order”) and Article 130 (“incitement to hatred”) of the Belarusian Criminal Code. On 15 September 2022, the KGB put him on the “list of persons involved in terrorist activities”. He is one of the youngest people on this list.
Katarina Barley, Member and Vice-President of the European Parliament, has taken on the godparenthood of Matsvei Hrankevich and explains: “It will soon be three years since the start of the great protest movement in Belarus and a great deal has happened since then in Europe and beyond. Due to the terrible events in other countries, the democratic movement and its situation in Belarus are in danger of being forgotten. That would be fatal. Because if the autocrats of this world believe that their atrocities won’t be followed by a reaction, they will feel safe. That is why we must continue to keep an eye on the situation of the brave people in Belarus and show our solidarity with the political prisoners of the system!
Right now, they need our full support. I, too, remain firmly on the side of the democratic movement in Belarus: Lukashenko must not get away with his brutal suppression of the opposition. His criminal methods must not pay off. We must stand by his critics. One of them is the student Matsvei Hrankevich, who was arrested on 10 November 2021. His “crime”: he had participated in democratic protests against his government and made critical comments about it on the internet. At only 22 years old, he is among the youngest on the regime’s enemy lists. I demand his immediate release, along with all other political prisoners. Europe has not forgotten you!”
Aksana Zaretskaya is a cultural expert, an etiquette and business communication trainer, and has a Master’s in education. Zaretskaya has been a member of the Coordination Council since 2020. She was arrested at the end of December 2022. On 14 March 2023, Zaretskaya was found guilty under Article 342 (“organisation of or participation in actions that grossly violate public order”) and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment in a penal colony. On 16 March 2023, Zaretskaya was taken from the remand prison to a hospital for unknown reasons. There is currently no information about her place of detention and state of health.
Beate Walter-Rosenheimer, a member of the German Bundestag and of the Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid, has taken on the godparenthood of Aksana Zaretskaya and states: “There are still countless Belarusian opposition members in prison. They are sentenced to long prison terms in show trials in which the principles of the rule of law are trampled on. More than two years after the beginning of the protests, the Belarusian regime is still persecuting opposition members who took to the streets for free democratic elections. The fates of those who fight for the universal values of human rights must not be forgotten. That is why we must continue to stand by the people of Belarus! That is why I have once again decided to take on a godparenthood. Her name is Aksana Zaretskaya. She was sentenced to 1.5 years in prison a month ago. The charge was an alleged offence against public order—a typical charge in the country to imprison and silence opposition figures.
Shortly after conviction, she was transferred to a hospital for unknown reasons. Her current whereabouts are unknown. I demand her immediate release! Her whereabouts must be clarified by the Belarusian authorities immediately!”
Illia Shapatkouski was actively involved in Viktar Babaryka’s election campaign. He also led the Honest People initiative, which advocated for transparent elections. Shapatkouski was arrested on 4 August 2020 Shapatkouski is currently on trial for an alleged “conspiracy to seize power in an unconstitutional way” (Art. 357).
Katja Keul, a Member of the German Bundestag and Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office, has taken on the godparenthood of Illia Shapatkouski and declares: “We continue to stand firmly by the side of the democracy movement in Belarus! Thousands of courageous people have been campaigning for democracy and freedom in their country since 2020 and are systematically suppressed and put in prison by Lukashenko’s regime for doing so.We have not forgotten them! One of them was Illia Shapatkouski, who supported the election campaign of the opposition candidate Babaryka. Even after he was banned from running, Illia did not give up and became involved in the “Honest People” initiative, which campaigned for transparent elections and counting. By taking on this godparenthood, I would like to draw attention to the many cases of political prisoners, such as Illia’s, so that the voices of the Belarusian democracy movement are heard here in Germany. Also, I demand the unconditional release of all political prisoners in Belarus! #WeStandBYyou”