The following is a statement on the conviction of Uladzimir Niakliaeu, award-winning poet and Honorary Chairman of the Belarusian PEN Center, for an alleged call to participate in an unsanctioned gathering during a TV interview. PEN America stands in solidarity with our colleagues in Belarus as they face yet another encroachment on their free expression rights. 

Statement from the Board of the Belarusian PEN Center

On 1 November 2017, the famous Belarusian poet, recipient of international literary prizes, Honorary Chairman of the Belarusian PEN Center Uladzimir Niakliaeu, was convicted by the Leninsky district court of Minsk for alleged calls to participate in an unsanctioned mass event that was to be held in Minsk on October 21, 2017. He was sentenced to 10 days of administrative arrest. As proof of Niakliaeu’s guilt, a quotation was taken from the website, which features a link to an interview that the poet gave on October 16, 2017 to the Polish informational channel Belsat TV. Such accusations are contrary to international standards and restrict the right to express one’s opinion, guaranteed, in part, by the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus.

Keeping in mind the aforementioned, we consider the verdict handed down against Niakliaeu on charges of committing an administrative offense unjustified and unacceptable. Applying unreasonable and unmotivated cruel punishment, deprivation of liberty, with respect to 71-year-old Uladzimir Niakliaeu, who has serious problems with health, the authorities jeopardize his health and life.

The above condemnation is another repression of the authorities in relation to Niakliaeu, who was one of the leaders of the 2010 presidential campaign. As a presidential candidate, Uladzimir Niakliaeu was brutally beaten on the day of elections on December 19, 2010, after which he occurred in the KGB jail and was accused of “organizing mass riots”. On March 30, 2011 the prosecution was reformulated according to Part 1 of Art. 342 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus (grossly violating public order by organizing actions, or participating in them). On May 20, 2011 in the Frunzensky district court of Minsk Niakliaeu was sentenced to 2 years in prison with a delay of 2 years.

In recent years, Niakliaeu has been repeatedly detained and had received administrative charges. He received penalties in the form of fines and administrative arrests.

Considering the fact of another condemnation of the poet, our colleague and Honorary Chairman of the Belarusian PEN Center Uladzimir Niakliaeu as evidence of pressure for his political beliefs, the Belarusian PEN Center calls on the Belarusian authorities to stop the persecution and to revoke the verdict against Uladzimir Niakliaeu. We urge the international community to support this appeal.

Board of the Belarusian PEN Center

Pavel Ancipau

Uladzimir Arlou

Siarhej Dubaviec

Alena Kazlova

Uladzimir Liankievic

Tacciana Niadbaj

Andrej Khadanovic