Some 1,300 people are detained on political grounds in Belarus, in appalling conditions. Following the fraudulent elections and subsequent mass protests in 2020, repression against the country's democratic opposition has only intensified. The Lukashenka regime is directly following the lead of its eastern neighbour in the Kremlin, complicit in the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine. Domestically, repression against democratic forces continues unabated. Journalists, human rights activists, politicians, trade unionists and protesters are detained in appalling conditions. One of them is the leader of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Narodnaya Hramada, Народная Грамада), Mikola Statkevich. Last month, an exhibition of Statkevich's images took place in Vilnius, Lithuania, to draw attention to the immediate release of him and other political prisoners in Belarus. See some of the photos below.
Statkevich at an earlier protest against Lukashenka, who has been in power in Belarus since 1994 (year unknown)
Arrest in 2020
Mikola Statkevich is one of the leading figures in the Belarusian democratic protest movement. Before the 2020 presidential elections, where he also stood as a candidate, he had been involved in protests on several occasions - he also participated in elections more often. In May 2020, while Statkevich was on his way to a protest with Svetlana Tichanovskaya, among others, he was arrested for participating in an illegal protest and sentenced to 15 days in jail. This was extended twice, after which Statkevich was tried in 2020 for 'endangering public order'. Statkevich was not released. In December 2021, he was tried in a politically motivated trial to 14 years in prison, along with well-known opposition figures Ihar Losik and Sergei Tichanovskiy. He was given no legal defence and all contact with family was denied.
Footage of Statkevich at a protest, with the red and white flag of independent Belarus featuring democratic opposition
Statkevich behind bars during his mock trial in 2021
Mikola Statkevich, like more than a thousand other political prisoners, is currently imprisoned in Belarus in lousy conditions. For more than two months there has been no contact with him. Belarusian authorities have denied all opportunities for visits from lawyers and family - a violation of several human rights conventions. Together with European partners, we advocate daily for the situation of political prisoners in Belarus. Prisoners of conscience like Mikola Statkevich should be freed with immediate effect. As the 2020 protests have shown, Aleksander Lukashenka's stranglehold over the Belarusian people is untenable and illegitimate. The Belarusian opposition deserves free speech - and this is what the FMS will fight for every day.
Mikola Statkevich with Nobel laureate Ales Bialiatski, founder of human rights organisation Viasna. Bialiatski is serving a 10-year prison sentence.
Prominent Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaya holds up an effigy of Statkevich during a speech