The trial of Andrzej Poczobut, a board member of the Belarusian government’s outlawed Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB) and a well-known journalist, has begun in Grodno.
Poczobut has been in custody since March 25, 2021, and is being charged with inciting hatred and rehabilitating Nazism, as well as calling for sanctions. In October 2022, Poczobut was added to Belarus’ “terrorist list.”
Despite being urged to petition for clemency from Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Poczobut has refused.
The Polish charge d’affair in Minsk, Marcin Wojciechowski, was not allowed into the courtroom, according to a statement made by Foreign Ministry spokesman Łukasz Jasina on social media.
Other members of the ZPB, including Andżelika Borys, Irena Biernacka, and Maria Tishkovskaya, as well as minority activist Anna Panisheva, were also arrested along with Poczobut. Borys was released from detention in March 2022, but is still under criminal investigation and may be under house arrest, according to independent media.
Biernacka, Tishkovskaya, and Panisheva were able to leave the country with the help of Polish authorities and cannot return to Belarus.
The authorities have also recently been conducting searches at the apartments of ZPB activists and have initiated criminal proceedings for “activity on behalf of an unregistered organisation.”
The Grodno regional prosecutor’s office has also sent a request to the court to liquidate the company that the ZPB operated under.
The Union of Poles in Belarus was banned by authorities in 2005. The democratic opposition has recognised Poczobut and Borys as political prisoners.