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Keep on Rocking in the free World

(with thanks/apologies to Neil Young for the title)

I heard ashocking story yesterday. Igor Koktysh, a 29-year-old rock musician,social activist and supporter of the political opposition in Belarus isfacing execution if hes convicted of a murder charge against him that iscompletely fabricated.

Hes currently being held by the authorities in the Ukraine, pending extradition back to Belarus. Igormoved to Ukrainewith his Ukrainian wife a few years ago.

Amazingly, he is wanted to stand trial on charges ofpremeditated murder, despite the fact that he has already been tried for theoffence and was able to prove that he was in a totally different city when thecrime took place. He was first arrested on the murder charge in 2001. In custody he says he was tortured, including by being beatenand locked naked in a very cold cell, to try to force him to confess.

If hes tried and found guilty, he could be executed with a bullet tothe back of the head, the execution method that Belarus has preserved from Soviettimes. Its the only country in Europe and the former SovietUnion that still retains the death penalty.

Hes clearly being persecuted for his political views. Igor was anactive member of the youth opposition movement Zubr. His band, Milky Way (MlechnyPut) was banned in Belarus. Igor also created videos and composed songssupporting the opposition candidate in Belaruss 2006 election.

The roots of this go further back though. In 2000 Igor had tried tostart an independent youth organisation, the Informal Youth Movement, but the authorities refused to registerthe group. Shortly afterwards, the head of investigations of the local policedepartment came to Igors house and, in front of witnesses, stated that hewould find a reason to arrest him.

Weve launched our appeal for Igor today, naming him as a prisoner ofconscience, held for the peaceful expression of his beliefs. Were askingpeople to go to write urgently to the Ukrainian authorities, demanding his immediate andunconditional release.

You can download pictures, mp3s and videos from the campaigning sitethat Igors wife has set up at

And if we have any Russian speakers reading this blog, Id love to gethold of a translation of some of Igors lyrics!

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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