As part of our #WeStandBYyou solidarity campaign, Wendy Chamberlain (Liberal Democrats, House of Commons), Lord German (Liberal Democrats, House of Lords) and Filiz Polat (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, German Bundestag) have taken on godparenthood for political prisoners in Belarus.
Larysa Shchyrakova worked as a journalist before her arrest on 6 December 2022. She covered the protests in Belarus online and shared her information with other opposition networks. The judge sentenced Larysa to 3.5 years in prison for allegedly “supporting extremist activities” (Art. 361-4) and “discrediting the Republic of Belarus” (Art. 369-1). Her son was also placed in an institution by the authorities. However, the child is now safe and secure with his father.
Wendy Chamberlain is a Liberal Democrats member in the House of Commons and has taken on her second godparenthood. She is now supporting Larysa Shchyrakova and explains: “Ms. Shchyrakova is a former journalist and was charged with Art. 361-4 of the Criminal Code — Promoting extremist activities and Art. 369-1 of the Criminal Code — Discrediting Belarus. She was sentenced to 3.5 years imprisonment and her son has been taken to a shelter. As part of the #WeStandBYyou campaign, I give my full support to Ms. Shchyrakova’s immediate release and the release of all Belarusian political prisoners who are campaigning for freedom and democracy.”
Yauhen Hlushkou was arrested on 16 August 2022 for “promoting extremist activities” (Article 361-4). Yauhen used a Telegram channel to send photos of a Belarusian airfield from which the Russian air force launched attacks on Ukraine. The judge therefore found him guilty of harming the national security of the Republic of Belarus and sentenced him to a total of 9 years in imprisonment for alleged “high treason” under Article 356.
Lord German is a Liberal Democrats member of the House of Lords and Vice-Chair of the Belarus Parliamentary Group. In his first godparenthood, he supports Yauhen Hlushkou, saying: “My Belarusian friend, as you endure the darkness of unjust confinement, know that your unwavering spirit shines as a beacon of hope for all who yearn for freedom. You are not alone in this struggle, and the world stands with you in solidarity. Your sacrifice and determination inspire us all to strive for a world where every voice is heard, and every soul is free.”
Tatsiana and Aliaksandr Birulia were arrested on 13 December 2021 for distributing protest leaflets. The wide-ranging charges against the couple included allegedly “harming the national security” (Article 361), “incitement to hatred” (Article 130), “slander against the President” (Article 367) and “promoting extremist activities” (Article 361-4). Tatsiana and her husband Aliaksandr were each sentenced to 6 years in a penal colony.
Filiz Polat is a member of the German Bundestag for Bündnis 90/Die Grünen. Once again she has taken on a double godparenthood, this time supporting Tatsiana and Aliaksandr Birulia. She explains: “I stand in solidarity with Tatsiana and Aliaksandr Birulia, who have been held as political prisoners in Belarus since December 2021. They are accused of distributing protest newspapers critical of President Lukashenka – but were simply exercising their right to freedom of expression. I call for their immediate release and hope that they will soon be able to live in freedom with their daughter.