(NEW YORK) – PEN America today condemned the five-year penal colony sentence imposed on philosopher and PEN Belarus member Uladzimir Mackievič and joined PEN Belarus to demand his immediate and unconditional release, saying the charges against him are punishment for dissent and his commitment to human rights. Mackievič was detained on August 4, 2021, and charged with organizing actions that grossly violate public order. He was among many prominent thinkers who joined post-presidential protests in August 2020. Last Thursday, following a closed-door hearing in Minsk, he was sentenced to five years in a penal colony.

“With each individual detained and incarcerated for their protests against Lukashenka, we see how the situation in Belarus deteriorates and grows more dire,” said Polina Sadovskaya, director of Eurasia programs at PEN America. “Since the presidential election, the escalating rates of detention and political imprisonment are unfathomable. Our colleagues at PEN Belarus work tirelessly to record human rights violations and defend those who have been unfairly detained. We join them today and always in calling for justice and demanding freedom for Uladzimir Mackievič and others.”

PEN America also condemned the closed-door trial, a tactic used by regimes to prevent international observers from holding the courts accountable for injustice.

Mackievič is a renowned philosopher, writer, and public intellectual with over 50 publications. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, he has been a vocal supporter for improving human rights and implementing democratic principles in Belarus. In 2011, Mackievič was banned from teaching in Belarusian public universities due to his dissent and protest against Lukashenka’s regime. Afterward, Mackievič continued teaching at his “Flying University” project, a space designed to cultivate critical thinking—and study topics that are otherwise unavailable in Belarusian curricula, including historical memory and de-Sovietization.

His detention since August 2021 has also involved a hunger strike, during which he demanded that a date be set for his trial.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, STrimel@PEN.org, 201-247-5057