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16.05.2011
source: wyborcza.pl

Andrzej Poczobut charged with slandering Lukashenko

   

 

Correspondent for the Polish newspaper Wyborcza and activist of the Union of Poles in Belarus, Andrzej Poczobut has been formally charged with supposedly insulting and slandering President Lukashenko.  He faces four years imprisonment.

On Thursday, the day the charges were announced, human rights abuse, including the plight of Andrzej Poczobut, were discussed during the plenary session of the European Parliament

Calls were made for EU sanctions on state-owned companies in Belarus

“Amid concern at "the persisting climate of fear and intimidation" of journalists and opposition leaders in Belarus, Parliament calls on the Commission to broaden EU sanctions against the regime to include targeted economic sanctions against state-owned companies.

MEPs condemn the constant arrests and trials of presidential candidates and emphasize that the EU needs to find new ways to assist the political opposition against the Lukashenka regime. The ongoing procedure to close the weekly newspapers Narodnaya Volia andNasha Niva and the independent internet portals Karta 㥩 and Bielorusskij Partizan must be also halted, says Parliament.”

Calls have already been made to release Poczobut by a number of prominent public officials in various European countries. Amnesty International has declared Poczobut a prisoner of conscience.

The Belarusian authorities are refusing to yield. They have not agreed to release the journalist who has two small children, either on bail or on the personal guarantee of over 40 people. On Thursday he was charged by Prosecutor Arsen Nikolski under Article 368 of the Criminal Code (insulting Lukashenko) which carries a sentence of up to 2 years, and Article 387, defamation of the Head of State (four years imprisonment).

These “crimes” he supposedly committed in two commentaries in a blog and on the website Belarusian Partisan, as well as in eight articles for Wyborcza. As reported, the Prosecutor and Belarusian KGB even managed to find breach of the law in texts where Lukashenko is not even mentioned.

“Experts” paid by the Prosecutor to carry out an analysis of Poczobut’s texts claim that the journalist could offend the Belarusian leader even without mentioning him.

Andrzej Poczobut’s lawyer, Alexander Birylau did not want to comment until he and his colleague had had time to study the charges.

This is by no means the first time Andrzej Poczobut has suffered persecution. He has been imprisoned several times for his activities in the Union of Poles of Belarus which is not recognized by the authorities.

He spent 15 days in prison in February for taking part in anti-government disturbances which is how the 19 December protest, the biggest in 4 years, is described by the authorities.  Over 20 thousand people protested in the Belarusian capital against the rigged presidential elections. The protest was brutally crush and over 800 people were sentenced either to fines or to up to several years imprisonment.

Andrzej Poczobut was in Minsk as correspondent for Wyborcza and showed articles he had written as proof. These were rejected by the authorities who stripped him of his journalist accreditation two years ago.

In a letter to his readers on Wednesday Poczobut wrote: “I don’t regret anything. I would write every letter, comma and full stop in the same places and would even add several exclamation marks”.

If you haven’t already done so, please sign the appeal for Andrzej Poczubut’s release at

http://wyborcza.pl/poczobut/0, 0.html

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