As part of our solidarity campaign #WeStandBYyou, Corina Gredig (Schweizer Nationalrat, Grünliberale Partei), Jerry Buttimer (Chair of the Irish Senate, Fine Gael) and Liam McArthur (Scottish Parliament, Liberal Democrats) have taken on a godparenthood for political prisoners in Belarus.
Illia Verameyeu was imprisoned on 27 February 2022. For sending messages in Telegram chats, he was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison under Art. 293 (“Organization of riots”) and Art. 130 (“Incitement to hatred”) of the Belarusian Criminal Code. In the chats, he allegedly planned protests.
Corina Gredig, Member of the Swiss National Council (Grünliberale), has taken on the godparenthood for Illia Verameyeu and states: “My full admiration and support goes out to the courageous people in Belarus. I stand in full solidarity with Illia Verameyeu, a young Belarusian who got charged for spreading messages via Telegram. Freedom of expression is not a crime – instead, he is now facing 6.5 years of imprisonment under the pretext of having organized protests and incited hatred online. This is a very common approach of law enforcement in Belarus and must not be tolerated. Illia Verameyeu and all political prisoners need to be released immediately .”
Pavel Belavus is a cultural manager and founder of an online store that sells flags and symbols such as the historic red-white flag of the Republic of Belarus. Opponents of the Lukashenko regime reject the red-green national flag and use the old red-white flag instead. Pavel Belavus was arrested on 15 November 2021 and was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment under Art. 342 (“violation of public order”), Art. 361-1 (“formation of an extremist organization”), and Art. 356 (“high treason”). In January 2023, the Investigative Committee declared that Pavel Belavus had allegedly “stimulated the hostility of his compatriots towards the motherland.”
Jerry Buttimer, Chair of the Irish Senate (Fine Gael), has taken on the godparenthood for Pavel Belavus and emphasises: “The cause of democracy and human rights requires courageous people to stand up for their rights and to challenge the abuse of power. As a result of Pavel Belavus’ commitment to freedom and democracy, he is currently detained by the Belarussian authorities. As a global community we must join together to tackle tyranny wherever we may find it; together we can make change possible. It is for these reasons that I am calling for the immediate release of Pavel Balavus.”
Dzmitryi Klimau worked as a driver for various organizations and was first arrested on 30 March 2022 together with two other men under suspicion of destroying two electricity distribution cabinets. The men resisted the arrest, as a result of which they were injured with lethal weapons. Dzmitryi Klimau was sentenced to 22 years of imprisonment under five articles of the Criminal Code: Art. 289 (“An act of terrorism”), Art. 290-4 (“Establishing or participating in an organization for the purpose of terrorist activity”), Art. 356 (“High treason”), Art. 309 (“Intentional damage to communication lines”), and Art. 406 (“Failure to report a crime”).
Liam McArthur is a member of the Scottish Parliament for the Liberal Democrats and has assumed the godparenthood for Dzmitryi Klimau. He declares: “Belarus’ modern-day ‘railway partisans’ should be admired for their courage. Their non-violent actions played a significant role in stymieing Russia’s advance on Ukraine via Belarus at the outset of its illegal invasion, humiliating Russian forces and buying precious time for Ukraine to mount its defense. Following his violent arrest for allegedly taking part in the sabotage of a signal box, Dzmitryi Klimau has been sentenced to 22 years in a penal colony in a closed trial. It is perhaps unsurprising, though no less disgraceful, that the panicked Lukashenko regime has responded with harsh and violent crackdowns to internal resistance against its support for Putin’s war. That this resistance continues, despite risking severe punishment, is testimony to the bravery of Dzimitryi and others like him. I will continue to stand in support of all Belarusians willing to challenge their autocratic government.”