On July 1, people gathered in the centre of Brussels to express solidarity with Belarusians and protest against the persecution of politicians and civil society activists in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.
The participants urged the Belarusian authorities to immediately release incumbent president Alyaksandr Lukashenka‘s would-be rival Viktar Babaryka, his son and campaign chief Eduard Babaryka, might-have been presidential candidate Syarhei Tsikhanouski, politicians Pavel Sevyarynets and Mikalai Statkevich, activist Volha Nikalaichyk and others.
The Belarusians are simply seeking to exercise their voting rights in a free and fair election, the picketers stressed.
#SolidarityBelarus today in #Brussels w MEPs hearing out and supporting Belarusian people. @petras_petras @RobertBiedron @AndriusKubilius @AndrzejHalicki @ViolavonCramon @eapcsf @Belsat_Eng @savebelarus @franakviacorka @symbalby @Europarl_EN @RFERL pic.twitter.com/t5nlJXQMnE
— Dovile Sukyte (@DovileSukyte) July 1, 2020
The event was attented by Robert Biedroń, Chair of the EP Delegation for Relations with Belarus; Natallya Yarashevich, Director of the Secretariat of the EaP Civil Society Forum; members of the Belarusian Society in Belgium, MEPs, their advisers and officials.
“We are here to back the democratic position of the part of the Belarusian population that wants change for the better and more openness to Europe. Many people of good will have come to show their attitude to the overriding sentiment that is now being spotted among the majority of Belarusian residents, among those who want change, among those who do not support the regime’s policies. We show up at the to the rally to express our solidarity with the people who are facing inhumane confinement conditions, violence and abuse in Belarusian prisons. It is symbolic that this solidarity action is taking place at the very heart of Europe, near the building of the European Parliament. This fact will definitely draw even more attention of European institutions to the situation in Belarus,” Lithuanian MEP Petras Austrevicius, Special Rapporteur on Belarus, told Belsat TV.
Over the part week, a number of rallies aiming at showing support to Belarusian have been held in many cities around the world. This is a reaction to the current events in Belarus: grabbing and sentencing peaceful protesters, politically motivated arrests, intimidation and violence against opponents of the authorities.
According to the human rights centre Viasna, more than 360 people were detained at the ‘solidarity chain’ rallies (as well as before and after the rallies), held throughout the country from 18 to 21 June.
June, 19 was the last day to hold pre-election pickets and collect signatures for this or that wannabe presidential candidate. However, the Belarusian police detained peaceful protesters throughout the country. In the Belarusian capital, picketers formed a human chain of several kilometres; people took to the streets in different parts of Minsk; many chanted ‘Set them free’, remembering Viktar Babaryka, Syarhei Tsikhanouski, Mikalai Statkevich and Pavel Seyarynets, as well as dozens of people who have been placed into custody since the beginning of the 2020 election campaign. During the picket, riot police took away Belsat TV photo reporter Iryna Arakhouskaya, RFE/RL livestreaming crew Alyaksandra Dynko and Andrey Rabchyk (thousands of viewers were witnessing the detention online), and Reuters cameraman Uladzimir Kostsin, photographer Vadzim Zamirouski, and Onliner journalist Nastassya Zanko.
In late June, the Belarusian authorities started to detain and open criminal cases against popular Belarusian Youtube bloggers and admins of TG channels (Ihar Losik, Dzmitry Kazlou, Syarhei Pyatrukhin and others) who criticised Alyaksandr Lukashenka and the current situation in the coutnry. The charges were brought on the back of the Belarusian president’s slamming ‘puppeteers’ from Poland and Russia who are ‘behind spreading fakes’ about him and his family on the Internet, including on Telegram.