Will other political prisoners be released after Bialiatski?

Head of the unregistered human rights centre Viasna Ales Bialiatski is giving his first press conference today, one day after the his release. He began the meeting symbolically.

Ales Bialiatski: “I have a T-shit with the list of eight political prisoners – Mikalai Statkevich, Artsyom Prakapenka, Yauhen Vaskovich, Vasil Parfyankou, Mikalai Dzyadok, Ihar Alinevich, Edward Lobau and Ales Bialiatski. I will cross out the last name now – the number of political prisoners had reduced by one person in Belarus.”

Bialiatski was released on the first amnesty day. It was unexpected for him and for everyone else, he confessed.

Ales Bialiatski: “People convicted according to my article could be amnestied if they had no other problems. However, I was considered to be “a persistent troublemaker” and could not be included in the amnesty. That is why I did not expect to be amnestied. They had to solve that problem somehow.”

The human rights defender does not know how the colony administration managed to amnesty ‘a persistent troublemaker’ – they did not explain anything.

Ales Bialiatski: “Formally, they [the violations – Euroradio] had to be liquidated. Otherwise, I could not be amnestied. Naturally, they did not explain anything because the decision had not been made by the colony administration.”

Nevertheless, the decision was made and the number of political prisoners in the country reduced by one. Can the other seven be released now? The others have fewer chances to be released, human rights defender Valyantsin Stefanovich said.

Valyantsin Stefanovich: “Technically, Ales’ situation was simple – it was enough to liquidate his violations. Ales’ article was mentioned in the amnesty law. The other political prisoners’ articles are not in this amnesty”.

Nevertheless, Euroradio’s interlocutor recalled ‘the practice of 2008-2009’ when people were released thanks to the Pardon Decree even without pleading for mercy. It is up to the authorities to decide, head of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Aleh Hulak added.

Aleh Hulak: “Political prisoners are a special case. They can be released as easily as they were imprisoned. If they authorities want it.”

Head of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia - FIDH Sasha Kulayeva agrees with her Belarusian colleagues.

Sasha Kulayeva: “Ales could be released for the same reason last year or two years ago. He was not included in those amnesties due to violations. Still, he has been easily amnestied this year. It means that everything depends on political will. If the authorities decide to release the other political prisoners, it will be done despite the fact that their articles are not in this amnesty and regardless of their violations.” 

There is one person whose release would require a lot of will from the authorities, human rights activists admit.

Sasha Kulayeva: “It is a matter of principle for Lukashenka – Mikola Statkevich…”

Stefanovich recalled Alyaksandr Kazulin’s release – it was also a matter of principle for Lukashenka.  Nevertheless, the presidential candidate was pardoned without pleading for mercy in 2006. The other political prisoners may also be released the same way now, human rights fenders think.

Photo: Zmitser Lukashuk