On Thursday, activists of the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB) Andrzej Poczobut, Maria Tiszkowska and Irena Biernacka, and on Friday the president of the Union of Poles in Belarus, Andżelika Borys, may hear charges in connection with a criminal case.
Members of the Main Board of ZPB Poczobut, Biernacka and Tiszkowska were detained on March 25 by the Belarusian militia as part of a criminal case. President Borys was arrested two days earlier in connection with the annual Kaziuki fair recognised as an illegal mass event. On March 24, Borys was sentenced to 15 days in jail.
The prosecutor general of Belarus announced that all four are now subject to the criminal proceedings mentioned on Thursday. The case deals with incitement to ethnic hatred and the “rehabilitation of Nazism”.
The article of the Penal Code of Belarus indicated by the prosecutor’s office (point 3, article 130) is punishable by imprisonment from five to twelve years. He mentioned, inter alia, deliberate actions aimed at inciting hostility on the basis of race, nationality and religion. These are acts which are “accompanied by violence” or committed by persons holding official positions. Section 3 deals with the above activities carried out by a group of people or leading to manslaughter or other serious consequences.
The ZPB is the largest organisation of the Polish minority in Belarus. In 2005, the authorities in Minsk revoked its registration. The statutory goals of the Union of Poles in Belarus include cultivating Polishness, promoting Polish culture, learning the language and caring for memorial sites.
On March 10, the prosecutor’s office in Brest initiated a criminal case against the local Polish activist and headmistress of the Polish language school, Anna Paniszewa. The case also concerns the alleged “rehabilitation of Nazism”. Anna Paniszewa remains in custody.
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