Masked people are searching houses of journalists and human rights defenders, trade unions across Belarus. There is no contact with most of them now. Searches are happening all over the country: in Minsk, Brest, Mogilev, Gomel and Vitebsk.
This morning, police and KGB reportedly came to at least 21 journalists and human rights defenders. Among them is the leadership of the Belarus Association of Journalists. They conduct searches. According to the Investigative Committee, they are “looking for sources of funding of protests.”
“They break into my door. Hold on, colleagues. We are not violating anything,” Boris Goretsky, the Belarusian Association of Journalists spokesperson, managed to write before disconnected.
The Belarusian Association of Journalists is a non-governmental public organization. It unites citizens engaged in professional journalistic activity or contributing to its development. BAJ advocates for the rights of journalists and the principles of free and professional journalism.
— Media Solidarity (@MediaSOL_BY) February 16, 2021
The list below contains the names of journalists and human rights activists who have been or are being searched at the moment. It is updated!
Coordinator of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders Against the Death Penalty” Andriy Poluda. His phone is off.
Press Secretary of the Belarusian House of Human Rights named after Boris Zvozskov Yevgeny Parashchenko.
Natalya Satsunkevich, human rights activist of the Viasna Human Rights Centre.
Members of the independent trade union REP Igor Komlik, Andrey Komlik-Yamatin.
REP leader Gennady Fedynich and union chairman Vasily Zavadsky are not answering their phones.
Search at BAJ office is over. Doors are sealed. Equipment, membership forms and other documents have been seized. Andrei Bastunets has no procedural status so far and is free. #belarus #PressFreedom https://t.co/CUB62syocY pic.twitter.com/CR79TzyrcX
— БАЖ | BAJ (@baj_by) February 16, 2021
Lawyer Christina Richter. The search was conducted as part of a criminal case under Art. 342 of the Criminal Code of Belarus (Organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order or active participation in them). Her phone and documents related to the activities of the BAJ were seized.
Human rights activist of the Viasna Human Rights Centre Dmitry Soloviev. His equipment and telephone were taken away from him. He is detained.
The search took place at the place of the digital security expert Nikolai Kvantaliani.
The search began in the office of the de-registered Viasna Human Rights Centre, its chairman Ales Bialiatski is there.
The search is also taking place in the office of the independent trade union REP.
Gomel and Gomel region
Freelance journalist Larisa Shchiryakova (Gomel). She is being searched as part of a criminal case under Art. 362 of the Criminal Code of Belarus (Murder of an employee of the internal affairs bodies). Perhaps this is a mistake and this is Art. 342 of the Criminal Code of Belarus (Organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order or active participation in them). At about 11.30 am the search ended.
The GUBOPiK officers conducted the search in the presence of riot police, it lasted about three hours. The journalist was questioned about the money, photo and video equipment, information storage devices, white-red-white-flags and a poster “I am a dishonest journalist” and “Release Sudalenko”.
Journalist Anatoly Gotovchits (Gomel).
Activist and volunteer Valery Slepukhin (Gomel).
Head of the branch of the Viasna Human Rights Centre Vladimir Telepun (Mozyr).
Head of the branch of the Viasna Human Rights Centre, Alena Maslyukova (Svetlogorsk).
The search took place at the parents of the human rights activist and co-founder of BY_help and BYSOL, Andrey Strizhak (Rechitsa).
Employees of the branch of the Viasna Human Rights Centre Alexey Kolchin and Boris Bukhel.
Journalist Ales Burakov Jr.
The search is also taking place in the office of the Mogilevskaya Vesna.
Human rights activist Irina Tretyakova. They searched for documents, but took only a USB flash drive and a book “Monitoring of police departments”. Irina herself is free.
Human rights activist Vladimir Velichkin, his wife does not answer calls either.
A search is going at the parents of volunteers Ekaterina Bazhko and Anna Bogdanovich.
Valentin Stefanovich, deputy head of the de-registered Viasna Human Rights Centre, told TUT.BY that the search in the organization’s office has been taking place from 8 am. According to Stefanovich, searches are also taking place in all regional centres of the organization, excluding Grodno and Vitebsk. At least one Viasna employee – Dmitry Solovyov – was detained.
Stefanovich recalled that Belarusian human rights defenders were repressed the same way during the previous crisis, in 2010. However, he is convinced that the attack on human rights defenders in Belarus will not go unnoticed by the international community.
“The authorities believe that providing any assistance to the victims of repressions is financing the protests. It was not human rights activists or journalists who told people to take to the streets. We are just working with the results of what happened in the country. And only representatives of the authorities are guilty of this. Journalists and human rights defenders continue to be made scapegoats, claiming that they are the instigators of protests.”
As an example, he cited the case of journalist Andrey Alexandrov, against whom a criminal case was opened [for paying fines and helping to reimburse detention in isolation facilities] on the fact of financing or material support for activities that grossly violate public order (part 2 of article 342 of the Criminal Code).
The search in the office of the de-registered human rights centre Viasna ended at about 3.20 pm. Ales Beliatski was taken away by the security forces to conduct a search in his apartment.
The Investigative Committee commented on the mass searches across the country.
“As part of a preliminary investigation in order to establish the circumstances of financing protest activities, the investigation initiated searches in organizations positioning themselves as human rights defenders,” said the Investigative Committee.
The pro-government Belarusian Union of Journalists also commented on the searches in the BAJ offices and their employees’ apartments.
“According to early information, the investigative actions are connected with the case of illegal (including foreign) financing of the office and a number of foreign agents in the media,” reported the BSJ.