“We are preparing a new package of sanctions against Belarus in connection with the repression of local Poles,” said Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, at a press conference in Brussels on Monday.
“The Belarusian regime continues to repress and intimidate its own citizens. Now the target is the Polish community. We are working on the next package of sanctions. I hope that they will be introduced in the coming weeks,” Borrell said.
At the beginning of March, the president of the Union of Poles in Belarus, Andżelika Borys, was detained. First, she was sentenced to jail time for organising an “illegal event”, for which the authorities recognised the traditional Kaziuki Fair. She was then prosecuted for allegedly “inciting national hatred” and “rehabilitating Nazism” and placed under arrest in Minsk.
Borys and three other activists of the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB) – Andrzej Poczobut, Irena Biernacka and Maria Tiszkowska are facing five to 12 years in prison. They are all in custody, they have already heard the charges.
The authorities accuse ZPB activists and a Polish activist from Brześć (Southeast Belarus) Anna Paniszewej, who is also in custody with the same charges of “praising war criminals, including Romuald Rajs Bury” during organised events. Activists dismiss these accusations as unfounded. All of them were recognised as political prisoners by Belarusian human rights defenders.
The ZPB is the largest organisation of the Polish minority in Belarus. In 2005, the authorities in Minsk revoked her registration. The statutory objectives of the Union of Poles in Belarus include cultivating Polishness, promoting Polish culture, learning the language and fostering memorial sites.