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Belarusian PEN expells prominent activist for 'not paying fees'

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Pavel Sevyarynets/ Euroradio

Belarusian Christian Democracy activist Pavel Sevyarynets on Tuesday walked out of jail after having served his 15-day arrest he had be sentenced to for the defence of the Stalin-era victims' memorial in Kurapaty. Upon release, he learned that he had been expelled from the PEN centre for…. not paying the membership fees. The writer and politician wrote about this situation an indignant post on Facebook:

"While Baraulany policemen were confiscating my phone and watch for not paying the fines for my Kurapaty defense activism and while Akrestsina [pre-trial detention center in Minsk - Euroradio] prisoners were taking away my papers and pencils, some people working in the PEN centre decided to cancel my membership on the sly. The different people accepted me to center back in 2006: Uladzimir Nyaklyayeu, Uladzimir Arlou, Lyavon Barshcheuski, Barys Pyatrovich, and Ales Pashkevich set off for the back of beyond and arrived at Maloye Sitna to accept me to the PEN centre. They also brought the Adamovich Award for Letters from the Forest to me. The current administration has not even invited me to the expulsion ceremony. Maybe they thought that there was no sense in it since I was imprisoned. They did not even inform me about the expulsion.”

Sevyarynets admits he did receive the notification about the necessity to pay the fees 6 months ago. He stopped paying the fees on purpose ‘after the PEN centre ‘had organized a coming-out exhibition and started organizing events promoting the homosexual lifestyle,’ he told the secretary of the centre back then. He was ready to resume paying the fees as soon as the organization promised to him that things like that would not happen again. “I wanted to be sure that the money our family was paying would not be spent on bad things,” Sevyarynets wrote back then.

"Pavel Sevyarynets is not the only one to have been expelled,” chairperson of the Belarusian PEN centre Tacciana Niadbaj told Radio Liberty. “It was a difficult decision and it was not unanimous,” she explained. “We highly value Sevyaryents’ contribution to the defense of Kurapaty but we did not discuss his significant activities and his self-sacrifice. We only discussed his violation of the Statute of the organization.”