RAN 35/10 Update # 7 1 February 2011
The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International welcomes the release from detention of the former president of the Belarus PEN Centre, Vladimir Neklyaev, and of the journalists, Natalia Radzina and Irina Khalip. However, we remain deeply concerned that their movements are still severely restricted and that they continue to face prison sentences of between 15 and 23 years on charges of ‘organizing mass disorder.' The WiPC urges that these restrictions of movement be lifted, and that the politically-motivated criminal cases against them - and against other journalists and activists arrested following the post-election protests in December 2010 - be dismissed.
Writer, Vladimir Neklyaev, and journalists, Natalia Radina and Irina Khalip, were detained on 19 December 2010, during the mass arrests that took place following post-election opposition protests in Minsk. They, along with hundreds of journalists and human rights activists, suffered brutal beatings at the hands of the KGB during their detention. They were released at the weekend, but their activities are being strictly controlled.
According to reports by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Irina Khalip is barred from leaving her apartment, from communicating by telephone and internet, and from reading the newspapers. Two KGB agents are staying with her in order to enforce these restrictions. Only her parents and young son are allowed to contact her.
Natalia Radzina has had her passport confiscated and has been forced to relocate from Minsk to the town of Kobrin, where she holds permanent residence. She is not allowed to leave the town and must report to the local police daily. She is barred from speaking about the case against her.
Vladimir Neklyaev has been placed under house arrest.
The crackdown on opposition activists and independent reporting which followed the flawed presidential elections in December 2010 has been condemned by human rights groups and free expression organizations. The Minsk office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) - which criticized the lack of transparency in the recent elections - has been forced into shutting down. There are reports that the EU has reinstated a visa ban on the president of Belarus, Alyaksandr Lukashenko, and on officials in his government.
Appeals should be sent to the Belarusian authorities:
Calling for the lifting of the severe restrictions placed on the activities of Vladimir Neklyaev, Natalia Radina and Irina Khalip;
Condemning the arrest and ill-treatment of human rights activists and journalists following the post-election protests;
Calling for an end to the persecution of press and media outlets by the Belarusian authorities;
Urging that all journalists and human rights activists be freed immediately and for the dismissal of politically-motivated criminal cases.
President of the Republic of Belarus
Alyaksandr G. Lukashenka
Karl Marx Str. 38
220016 g. Minsk
Fax: + 375 172 26 06 10 or +375 172 22 38 72
Please note: there have been reports that the President's email address is not working, so please consider sending your appeals via the Belarusian government website http://www.president.gov.by/en/press10650.html
Similar appeals should be sent to the Belarusian Embassy in your own country.
PEN International celebrates literature and promotes freedom of expression. Founded in 1921, our global community of writers now spans more than 100 countries. Our campaigns, events, publications and programmes aim to connect writers and readers wherever they are in the world.