It is with a heavy heart that Students For Liberty informs you that our student leader and civil rights activist, Piotr Markiełaŭ, has been once again arrested and jailed by the Belarusian authorities.
Piotr Markiełaŭ was detained on November 15, 2020, when he, together with thousands of Belarusian activists, went into the streets to commemorate Roman Bondarenko, a Belarusian artist who was severely beaten by unknown plain-clothes police officers in masks on November 11 and died the following day. Over a thousand activists were arrested for engaging in an unsanctioned rally.
On November 18, 2020, Piotr Markiełaŭ was sentenced to 15 days in prison under article 23.34 of the Administrative Code of Belarus for violating the rules of conduct of public gatherings. As a common rule, Piotr’s lawyer is denied visiting rights.
Piotr Markiełaŭ was previously arrested for supporting the family of a political prisoner in Belarus in the wake of the Presidential Elections when he was sentenced to 12 days in prison. During the arrest, Piotr has been tortured and denied legal representation as well. This year, Piotr will spend a total of 37 days in jail.
Earlier in November, Piotr’s father, Dmitry Markiełaŭ, was sentenced to eight days in prison for supporting students who were expelled from the medical university for participating in the opposition movement. Piotr’s mother, Iryna, was detained twice – first on November 2 and again on November 8. During her last arrest, she was tortured with gas, denied food for almost 24 hours, stripped naked, and forced to crouch down to her cell. She was bullied by the police staff and threatened with physical force. Piotr’s father was later released from prison with symptoms of COVID-19.
Every Sunday, thousands of activists go out into the streets of Minsk on a march to oppose the regime. In the last six months, over 20,000 people were detained and sentenced to administrative and criminal offenses. Many arrested activists faced police brutality, bullying, and torture. Seven people were killed by the Belarusian authorities during the post-election protests, and the Belarusian human rights community recognized 126 people as political prisoners.
As a community founded on the values of human life and dignity, we believe that in our world today, there is no justification for violence and torture applied towards an individual. The government’s role is to protect every individual’s right to his or her own life and liberty and not to threaten it.
Students For Liberty joins the international community in their call to demand the immediate release of Piotr Markiełaŭ and all political prisoners and civil rights activists in Belarus.
We call for the European Community to resume their call for Belarusian authorities to stop the violence and inhumane treatment of the peaceful activists and civilians who support the #FreeBelarus movement.
Help us spread the word by demanding freedom and justice for Piotr. Please, share this message using the hashtag #FreePiotr with your family and friends in support of Piotr Markielau and other freedom fighters in Belarus.