As part of our #WeStandBYyou solidarity campaign, Giulia Pastorella (Italian Camera dei Deputati, Azione), Juozas Olekas (European Parliament, Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats) and Manuela Rottmann (German Bundestag, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) have taken on a godparenthood for political prisoners in Belarus.
Aliaksandr Petushkou was arrested on 11 April 2022 for his online comments on the protests in Kazakhstan and Belarus. The judge found him guilty of calling for strikes and the resumption of protests online. He was therefore convicted under Article 293 (“Organisation of riots”), Article 342 (“Organisation and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order”), Article 368 (“Insulting the President”) and Article 130 (“Incitement to hatred”). Aliaksandr was sentenced to 7.5 years in a penal colony.
Giulia Pastorella is a member of Italy’s Camera dei Deputati. She is a founding member and vice-president of the Azione party. She has issued the following statement on her support for Aliaksandr Petushkou: “Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right that must be protected and upheld. The ability of citizens to express their opinions, even dissenting ones, is a cornerstone of a just society, and the right to express oneself online should be protected as vigorously as traditional forms of speech. Today, digital tools play a crucial role in facilitating communication and the exchange of ideas. It is essential that these tools are used to improve and strengthen democracy, rather than to stifle the voices of individuals seeking positive change. In this regard, the charges brought against Aliaksandr Petushkou for expressing his views on the internet and participating in peaceful demonstrations are alarming and must not be tolerated. I therefore urge the Belarusian authorities to reconsider the case of Aliaksandr Petushkou and all other political prisoners and to release them.”
Mikalai Kuliashou, a former customs officer and member of the Belarusian social democratic party Narodnaya Hramada, was arrested on 4 September 2022. The charges included alleged “participation in an extremist organisation” (Art. 361-1), “illegal border crossing” (Art. 371) and “falsifying documents” (Art. 378). The court found Mikalai guilty of helping politically persecuted persons to flee to Lithuania and upheld all charges against him. Mikalai was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment.
Juozas Olekas is a Lithuanian member of the European Parliament (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats) and the chairman of the European delegation for relations with Belarus. He supports Mikalai Kuliashou with his godparenthood and states: “I strongly condemn the politically motivated detention and imprisonment of Mikalai Kuliashou. I would like to express my solidarity and support to him, his family and to all citizens of Belarus who in many different ways are fighting the illegal dictatorship. I call on the Belarus de-facto authorities for the immediate release of Mikalai Kuliashou and all other unjustly imprisoned people in Belarus.”
Pavel Mazheika worked as a journalist before his arrest on 30 August 2022. He was detained because of an article he wrote about Ales Pushkin, a political prisoner who had recently died in custody. According to his mother, who visited him in prison, Pavel showed signs of torture. The judge sentenced him under Article 361-4/2 of the Belarusian Criminal Code for allegedly “promoting extremist activities”. Pavel must serve a six-year sentence in a penal colony.
Manuela Rottmann is a member of the German Bundestag for Bündnis 90/Die Grünen. She is once again taking on a godparenthood, this time for Pavel Mazheika. She explains: “I stand by all politically persecuted people in Belarus who, despite danger and state terror, stand up for the right to freedom of expression, the rule of law and the protection of human rights. They deserve my solidarity and my deepest respect. That is why I have taken on the godparenthood for Pavel Mazheika, a journalist sentenced to six years in prison for allegedly supporting extremist activities for exercising his right to freedom of expression. Freedom of the press, freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial are human rights. They must be defended and respected in all circumstances. I therefore call for the immediate release of Pavel Mazheika and all political prisoners in Belarus #WeStandBYyou.”