Hunger Striking Belarusian Musician Must Be Released
Ihar Bancar has been imprisoned since October; PEN America says it's likely retaliation for his popular work that has resonated with the anti-hate movement
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For over a week, detained Belarusian musician and performer Ihar Bancar has gone without food or water, protesting the bogus “hooliganism” accusations that have been raised against him. PEN America today condemned those absurd charges and called for his immediate release, especially as his health deteriorates. Originally imprisoned in October, Bancar had a criminal case for “hooliganism” lodged against him after he allegedly danced in front of a police car partially nude in the city of Hrodna last September.
“The circumstances of Ihar Bancar’s arrest suggest that it is not merely about a moment of dancing—which would alone be no cause for arrest—but about the power of his voice in Eastern European music and social justice circles,” said Polina Sadovskaya, Eurasia program director at PEN America. “Bancar is a political prisoner whose ‘hooliganism’ charges are likely just a cover for the government’s objection to the messages he expresses through his music. The government of Belarus must drop all charges against Bancar immediately. Since the beginning of his hunger strike, every new day counts.”
Critics say Bancar’s arrest is in response to his popular performances as a street punk musician. His band Mister X has toured Europe and achieved success among underground punk rock circles in Poland and Germany. Despite claims that they are apolitical, Mister X’s performances resonate deeply with members of antiracist, anti-police, and anti-fascist movements. The band’s commitment to social justice values poses a challenge to the current Belarusian regime, against which citizens have been protesting since August.
In prison, Bancar has faced poor conditions. He has been deprived of family meetings and care packages, placed in a punishment cell, and taken for psychiatric evaluations. After pleading not guilty, Bancar has refused the services of a lawyer.
Write a letter to Ihar:
Address: prison №1, Kirov st. 1, 230023 Grodno, Belarus to Bantser Igor Romanovich.
Use hashtag #FreeBancer to raise public awareness on Ihar’s case.