Hands tied. Illustrative photo.
Hrodno (Belarus) – A Belarusian court sentenced journalist and activist of the Polish minority association Andrej Pachobut (Andrzej Poczobut in Polish) to prison for eight years, accused by the authorities, among other things, of inciting social hatred. The Belarusian human rights organization Vyasna and the opposition website Naša Niva informed about it. Warsaw called the sentence unfair and condemned it. The Polish Foreign Ministry summoned the Belarusian charge d'affaires because of him.
Police arrested Pachobut in March 2021. The Belarusian-Polish journalist faced charges of “incitement to social hatred”, “rehabilitation of Nazism” and “activities harming national security”, for which he faced five to 12 years in prison, according to earlier information from the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza .
“The politically motivated trial and today's sentence directed against Polish identity are a strong testimony of the anti-Polish activities of the Belarusian leadership. We condemn the unjust sentence issued by the court of an authoritarian state,” he said Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Lukasz Jasina. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on twitterwrote that the eight-year prison sentence for Pachobut is “an inhumane sentence of the Belarusian regime” and “another manifestation of the persecution of Poles in Belarus”. Morawiecki assured that Poland “will do everything to help a Polish journalist who shows the truth”.
Forty-nine-year-old Pačobut is a long-time correspondent of Gazeta Wyborcza. He also worked in the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB), which is an organization uniting the Polish diaspora. According to Vyasna Pačobut, the authorities were specifically to blame for, for example, the fact that the media described the Soviet attack on Poland in 1939 as aggression.
The AP agency previously wrote that Pačobut also reported on the large-scale protests that gripped Belarus in 2020 after the then-presidential elections. Their official results brought long-time Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko a new term in office, but the opposition and Western countries consider them falsified.
Today, the judge sent Pačobut to a penal colony with a stricter regime for eight years. The trial, which began in mid-January, took place behind closed doors, the announcement of the verdict was public, said Vyasna, who considers the convicted to be a political prisoner. Our Niva reminds us that Pačobut spent almost two years behind bars.
Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Cichanouská, who is in exile in Lithuania, marked< /i> sentence for Lukashenko's “personal revenge”. According to her, the journalist was condemned for doing his job. “Andrzej refused any agreements with the illegal regime. Now we must do everything to free him together with all the other political hostages,” Cichanouská wrote. She spoke today in the Polish Senate.
The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) also protests against the verdict. According to her, the case from the very beginning looks like retaliation for dissent and the journalist's long-term public position. The verdict has nothing to do with justice, the association says. “The Belarusian Association of Journalists demands the immediate release of Andrzej Poczobut and all 33 media representatives who are currently imprisoned in Belarus,” BAJ said.