Protest at Belarus embassy in solidarity with prisoners of conscience

Actor Samuel West will hand in a letter of protest and address a demonstration outside the Belarusian embassy in London this Saturday 19 February at 2pm

The protest is held in solidarity with all the victims of President Lukashenko’s regime in Belarus, particularly the prisoners currently detained by the secret police. The trials of the began this week. It is organised by The Belarus Committee, an influential group of NGOs including Amnesty International, Article 19 and Index on Censorship, together with individuals including Sir Tom Stoppard. Patrons include Vaclav Havel and Mikhael Gorbachev.

The Belarus Free Theatre, who are amongst the most vocal opponents of Lukashenko’s rule, have been forced to flee Belarus after the KGB issued an arrest warrant for co-founder Nikolai Khalezin.

Sienna Miller, who took part in an Index on Censorship benefit at the Young Vic with members of the Belarus Free Theatre in December, expressed her fears for the Free Theatre, adding:

“Belarus is the last dictatorship in Europe. We cannot permit this behaviour to continue.”

The Presidential elections last December were described by the OSCE as “seriously flawed”, with the count in half of the polling districts “bad or very bad”. During a post-election rally in Independence Square in Minsk the authorities arrested members of the country’s political opposition and civil society activists. Over 600 people were arrested that evening including Natalia Koliada from the Belarus Free Theatre and Index on Censorship award nominee Natalia Radzina.

Currently, 33 prisoners are still kept in custody. Journalist Irina Khalip, the wife of Presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov, and Presidential candidate Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu are both under punitive house arrest. They face up to 15 years in prison for orchestrating a “mass riot”.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“People have a right to peaceful protest, a right that is being exercised with sensational impact around much of the world right now.

“While some governments are finally having to listen to the voices of their people, President Lukashenko’s regime continues to respond with beatings and arrests. We are calling on the authorities in Belarus to release all prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally.”

Irina Bogdanova, sister of detained Presidential candidate Andrei Sannikau, will attend the protest and is available for interview. She speaks fluent English.

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