Belarusian journalist Andrzej Poczobut again under arrest
Andrzej Poczobut, the Belarusian Polish journalist who spent 3 months in prison in 2011 accusing of defaming Alexander Lukashenko has again been arrested. Since the charges are this time also of libelling the Belarusian dictator, he could face a heavier five-year prison sentence for what is classified as a “repeat offence”.
Gazeta Wyborcza reports that the Belarusian Ambassador to Poland was handed a protest on Friday by the Polish Foreign Ministry which called Mr Poczobut’s arrest “a blow not only for the Polish minority in Belarus, but first and foremost for independent civic society and human rights”.
Protests have also been issued by both President Komarowski and Prime Minister Tusk.
Dunja Mijatović, OSCE Media Freedom representative, has condemned the arrest and called for Poczobut’s immediate release. “. Prosecution of journalists for criticizing the head of state has no place in a modern European country. It chills public debate on issues vital for society».
Andrzej Pocobut received a three-year suspended sentence last July after three months in prison. He was released and continued honestly and unwaveringly covering the situation in Belarus. His reports on the trial and execution of the two young men accused of the Minsk bombing, on the arrests and persecution of Ales Bialiatski and other Belarusian civic activists have been vital in providing truthful information about what is happening in the country.
Andrzej Poczobut is 39, married with two children – a daughter of 12, and a son who was just one year old when his father was arrested last year. The family lives in Grodno and police apparently arrived at his home in the early hours of Friday morning to arrest him.
Andrzej Poczobut, who has worked for the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza since 2008, 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 15 days in prison in February 2011 for taking part in what the authorities called “anti-government disturbances”, i.e. the protests on 19 December 2010 against rigged presidential elections condemned as unfar by the international community.
From prison in May 2011 Poczobut wrote to his readers: “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”.