(New York, NY) — PEN America today condemned the absurd charges levied against philosopher and PEN Belarus member Olga Shparaga, who last Friday was detained a day before she was scheduled to coordinate a major weekend demonstration. A member of the opposition Coordinating Council, Shparaga remained in temporary detention until Monday, when she then received a 15-day administrative sentence for participating in “an unauthorized protest.” Another Coordinating Council member, Yulia Mitzkevich, was also detained and charged.

“Shparaga’s detention on Friday was no coincidence, as she was supposed to be coordinating and attending a women’s demonstration the following day. For more than two months now, the people of Belarus have been making their voices heard through peaceful marches and demonstrations in protest of a fraudulent election, and women have been especially central to this fight for democracy. Meanwhile the government continues to retaliate against those who speak out; this must stop,” said PEN America’s Eurasia program director Polina Sadovskaya. “We demand Shparaga’s immediate release. Efforts to silence political opponents through arrests, kidnappings and harassment are a violation of people’s most basic human rights, and are doomed to fail.”

Shparaga was previously detained earlier this month during a peaceful demonstration in Minsk. With help from PEN Belarus and her lawyer, she was released the next day. She joins a long list of writers and public intellectuals who have been in the forefront of the protest movement and have been brutally persecuted by the government. 

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