Belarus: Andrei Aliaksandrau and Irina Zlobina mark 3 years behind bars

Belarus: Andrei Aliaksandrau and Irina Zlobina mark 3 years behind bars - Protection

On the third anniversary of the imprisonment of Andrei Aliaksandrau and Irina Zlobina, ARTICLE 19 reiterates our call for their immediate release and for the baseless charges against the two human rights defenders to be dropped. 

On 12 January 2021, our former colleague Andrei Aliaksandrau and his wife Irina Zlobina were unlawfully detained and imprisoned. After spending over 620 days behind bars for their human rights work they were unjustly sentenced in October 2022.

Andrei and Irina were detained on 12 January 2021 for allegedly paying fines and covering detention costs for people apprehended during a democracy protest in Minsk. They were initially charged with the ‘organisation and preparation of actions, grossly violating public order, or active participation in them’, as well as ‘funding and other material support for such activities’. Subsequently, Andrei was also charged with ‘high treason’. On 6 October 2022, the Minsk Regional Court sentenced Andrei to 14 years in prison and Irina to 9 years. 

‘Andrei is a dedicated proponent of press freedom, who has previously worked with freedom of expression organisations as well as in journalism, including as a colleague at ARTICLE 19’, -said Joanna Szymanska, Senior Programme Officer for Europe and Central Asia at ARTICLE 19. ‘We tried to send letters, but the latest response from Andrei dates back to 2021; we suspect he may not be receiving our letters, a situation many political prisoners in Belarus experience. Nevertheless, our thoughts are consistently with Andrei and Irina, and we will continue our work for their release.’

Since their detention, ARTICLE 19 has advocated for their release an, with Index on Censorship, launched a solidarity campaign that continues today. We reiterate our calls for Andrei and Irina, as well as all other political prisoners in Belarus, to be freed without delay.

The anniversary coincides with the trial of Aliaksandr Ziankou, a photographer who was arrested in June 2023 and accused of extremist activities. He was also one of dozens of journalists and photographers arrested in July 2020.

On 9 August 2020, soon after the polls closed in Minsk, thousands of Belarusians took to the streets to defy President Alexander Lukashenko’s declaration of victory in the election, which had been marred by accusations of vote-rigging. In turn, the state apparatus unleashed a massive crackdown on peaceful protesters that intensified and led to a massive exodus of people seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.  More than 30,000 individuals were arrested and persecuted, along with scores of journalists and human rights activists. Andrei Aliaksandrau and Irina Zlobina are among the many people who have been handed down harsh prison sentences based on trumped-up charges.

Find out more about the #FreeAndreiAndIrina campaign

Read more about ARTICLE 19’s advocacy work to free political prisoners and support freedom of expression in Belarus.