Belarus: Journalist Andzej Poczobut to be tried behind closed doors



Andrzej Poczobut, correspondent for the Polish newspaper Wyborcza and activist of the Union of Poles in Belarus is to go on trial next week charged with insulting and defaming President Lukashenko. According to the European Radio from Belarus, broadcast from Warsaw, the trial, on 14 June, is to be behind closed doors on the application of the Hrodno Prosecutor.  Andrzej Poczobut’s wife, Oksana, confirmed this and said that the trial would be at the Lenin Court in Hrodno.

Andrzej Poczobut has been held in custody for 64 days. Calls for his immediate release over the last weeks have come from the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR), Catherine Ashton, the President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, MEPs, and many others. President Obama recently mentioned the case, and Amnesty International has declared Poczobut a prisoner of conscience.

Andrzej Poczobut is 38 years old and has worked for Gazeta Wyborcza since 2008. He lives in Hrodno with his wife and two children – his daughter is 11 and son, just one year old.

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.

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