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Belarus. The trial of Andrzej Poczobut. Barys Harecki: the trial will be a show and used for propaganda purposes

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The trial of Andrzej Poczobut has started in Belarus. The Polish charge d’affair in Minsk, Marcin Wojciechowski, was not allowed into the room, said the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Łukasz Jasina. The Belarusian authorities treat the case of Andrzej Poczobut as a show case and, unfortunately, he faces a high sentence, assessed the deputy head of the independent Belarusian Association of Journalists (BOJ) Barys Harecki.

Jasin informed about the refusal to let the Polish diplomat in social media.

In the trial that began in Grodno, Poczobut is charged with two articles of the criminal code Belarus for “inciting hatred” and calling for sanctions and actions to the detriment of Belarus. In both cases, the maximum sentence is 12 years imprisonment.

Andrzej Poczobut – prisoner of Lukashenko. WATCH ON TVN24 GO >>>

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– Unfortunately, there is no basis for any positive expectations. The case of Andrzej Poczobut is political, said Barys Harecki, deputy chairman of the BOJ liquidated by the authorities in Minsk, in an interview with PAP before the trial.

In his opinion, the trial will be a show trial and will be used for propaganda purposes, but this does not mean that it will take place in public. For now, however, it has been announced that it will be open. – The court may decide at the first hearing that the trial will be held behind closed doors. Proceedings under Article 130 of the Penal Code (incitement of hatred) are most often kept secret, noted Harecki.

The activist reminded that the maximum penalty provided for in this article is 12 years in prison. Poczobut was also charged with, inter alia, calling for the imposition of sanctions and actions detrimental to the security of Belarus. From this article (361), the maximum sentence is also 12 years.

Andrew Poczobut. Archive photo Jakub Kaminski/PAP

Activist and well-known journalist

Poczobut – member of the board of the Association of Poles in Belarus banned by the Belarusian authorities and a well-known journalist, cooperating with, among others, with “Gazeta Wyborcza” and TVP Polonia – since March 25, 2021, he has been in Belarusian custody.

He was initially accused of “incitement to hatred”, including “rehabilitation of Nazism”, and later also of calling for sanctions. In October 2022, he was included by the authorities in the Belarusian list of “persons involved in terrorist activities”.

According to the center human rights Wiasna, according to the prosecutor’s office, Poczobut’s “mistakes” were to call the USSR’s attack on Poland in 1939 aggression, he wrote articles about the protests in Belarus and the activists of the Polish underground during and after World War II, he defended the Polish minority in this country.

Poczobut’s trial was moved twice. Initially, it was supposed to start on November 28, then – January 9, and finally its date was set for January 16. “We have no information as to what caused these changes,” says Harecki.

Latushka: Lukashenka and his regime must finally be recognized as an international terrorist organization (material from 25/09/2021)TVN24

An element of activities aimed at confrontation with Poland

The PAP interlocutor believes that the trial of the Polish activist and journalist is an element of activities aimed at confronting Poland, which intensified after the wave of mass protests against the rigging of the 2020 elections in Belarus, and then – after Russia invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Poland was then and still is presented by the Belarusian authorities as one of the main enemies of Belarus, as well as a potential source of threat to its security.

– I do not know who in the structures of the authorities came up with the idea to start these confrontational activities, but both the trial of Andrzej and, more broadly, the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB), repressions against other organizations associated with Poland, the destruction of memorial sites are part of it – says Harecki . At the same time, he is convinced that the Poczobut case is being treated by Minsk as a “bargaining chip”.

The case against ZPB activists, banned by the authorities in Minsk in 2005, began in March 2021. A few months later, the Belarusian authorities carried out a “purge” – these are the words Lukashenko used at the time – in social organizations, associations, social structures not controlled by the state civic.

Writing "Free Andrzej Poczobut" at the Palace of Culture and Science (material from September 25, 2021)

The inscription “Free Andrzej Poczobut” at the Palace of Culture and Science (material from September 25, 2021)TVN24

Arrest of Borys, Biernacka and Tiszkowska

Together with Poczobut, the head of ZPB was also arrested in March 2021 Angelica Boris and Irena Biernacka i Maria Tiszkowska, also from ZPB, as well as Anna Paniszewa, a minority activist from Brześć. Borys was released from custody in March last year, but she is still under criminal proceedings and her status is unclear – according to independent media, she may be under house arrest. Biernacka, Tiszkowska and Paniszewa managed to leave Belarus last year thanks to the efforts of the Polish authorities. However, they are not allowed to return to their country of nationality.

Since his arrest, Poczobut has been in several detention centers – in Zhodzin, Minsk and Grodno, where he is awaiting the start of the trial before the district court. The ZPB activist was to be persuaded to write an application for clemency to Lukashenko, but he refused.

Main photo source: Jakub Kaminski/PAP

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