Responding to reports that a court in Belarus has sentenced human rights defenders Marfa Rabkova, Andrei Chapyuk and their eight co-accused to heavy prison terms, Marie Struthers, Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia to Amnesty International said:
“The heavy sentences handed down to human rights defender Marfa Rabkova and her co-defendants are just as shameful as the arrests and widespread reports of torture and ill-treatment of protesters that preceded the judgment rendered on September 6. This trial, which was based on charges of fictitious “mass riots”, is a travesty of justice that epitomizes the general trampling of Belarusian civil society.
The heavy sentences handed down to human rights defender Marfa Rabkova and her co-defendants are just as shameful as the arrests and widespread reports of torture and ill-treatment of protesters that preceded the trial returned on September 6
Marie Struthers, Eastern Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International
“No mass riots took place in Belarus. Marfa Rabkova and Andrei Chapyuk should never have been charged, nor any of their co-defendants. The Belarusian authorities must end their crackdown on civil society activists. All those who have ever been thrown behind bars simply for peacefully exercising their human rights must be released immediately and unconditionally. »
On September 6, the Minsk City Court sentenced Marfa Rabkova, volunteer coordinator for Viasna, a banned human rights organization in Belarus, to 15 years in prison, while Andrei Chapyuk, a Viasna volunteer in Minsk, was sentenced six years in prison.
Marfa Rabkova and Andrei Chapyuk were arbitrarily detained on September 17 and October 2, 2020, respectively, for denouncing human rights violations committed in the wake of the disputed August 2020 presidential election. protesters, mostly peaceful, took to the streets; the authorities have described these gatherings as “mass riots” with the aim of crushing any form of dissent.
Marfa Rabkova was notably found guilty of having “organized mass riots, of having participated in them and of having caused others to participate in them”, of having “incited social hostility towards the government” and of having “participated in a criminal organization”. Andrei Chapyuk was found guilty of “participation in mass riots” and “participation in a criminal organization”.
Their co-defendants, Akihiro Haeuski-Hanada, Alyaksandr Frantskevich, Alyaksei Galauko, Alyaksandr Kazlyanka, Pavel Shpetny, Mikita Dranets, Andrei Marach and Daniil Chul, received prison sentences ranging from five to 17 years.